Timeline of discussions between Columbia officials and United executives

Friday, December 7, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — This is a summary of the discussions between city officials and airline executives about deals for increasing the number of flights into and out of Columbia Regional Airport.

April 23: City Manager Mike Matthes and Mayor Bob McDavid gave a presentation to United Airlines representatives in Chicago, emphasizing their desire for service to Chicago O'Hare International Airport. A primary reason, they said, is that many MU students come from that area, and international students could fly through the airport.

May 8: Matthes sent an email to United executive Martin Kammerman in which he promised to schedule a meeting of local leaders to begin establishing an escrow fund to hold money for a revenue guarantee.

May 15: Matthes sent Kammerman a draft of a contract for flights between Columbia and Chicago, which included a revenue guarantee covering $1.5 million of losses each year for the first two years of service.

Sometime between May 15 and July 19: Matthes met with Kammerman and United revenue analyst Thomas Kremer in California to discuss air service to Columbia.

July 19: Matthes emailed a passenger demand analysis to Kammerman and Kremer that showed Chicago as the third most popular destination for Columbia passengers.

July 24: Ron McNeill, a consultant at Mead & Hunt who advised city officials on the negotiations, emailed Matthes to tell him that United called him with questions about service to Chicago versus Denver and said they were giving Columbia a close look.

July 25: McDavid sent an email to Matthes saying that an advantage with Frontier Airlines, which later began daily flights to Orlando, Fla., is that it would use a larger aircraft, but that a deal with United for service to Denver and Chicago would be "sweet."

Sept. 4: Kammerman sent Matthes a first draft of a contract for twice-daily round-trip service between Chicago and Columbia with a 50-seat aircraft. The city would have waived landing fees, provided $250,000 in marketing support and guaranteed a minimum revenue of $11,715 per round trip, plus $4.97 per passenger and 1 percent of passenger revenue, for United. The guarantee would have been capped at $3 million over nine calendar quarters.

Sept. 13: Matthes emailed Kammerman asking if they could "meet in the middle" on minimum revenue.

Oct. 11: McDavid announced a tentative deal with American Airlines for flights to Chicago and Dallas.

Oct. 12: McNeill, the consultant, revealed in an email to Matthes that the city had approached American Airlines, United, SkyWest and Trans States about adding flights to Chicago from Columbia.

Nov. 6: Matthes and McDavid held a news conference announcing that Delta Airlines had decided, in light of the revenue guarantee given to American, that it would discontinue service to Memphis and Atlanta. Delta rejected a Columbia offer for a similar guarantee if it would provide larger planes.

Nov. 7: Kammerman said in an email to Matthes that United was still interested in Columbia.

Nov. 8: Matthes said in an email to Kammerman that he would like to talk more about air service, mentioning that Delta was withdrawing its flights from the airport.

Nov. 9: Kammerman sent an email to Matthes suggesting that a deal was still possible and that United was still considering adding two flights between Columbia and Chicago per day.

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