COLUMBIA — Frontier Airlines will add a third weekly direct flight to Orlando, Fla., from Columbia Regional Airport on April 8.
The Orlando flights began in November and have become popular, with planes running at 80 to 90 percent capacity. The flights now are offered on Tuesdays and Saturdays. When the third flight is added, the schedule will shift to flights leaving Columbia at 10:10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Columbia is one of the only airports in the region offering direct flights to Orlando. Frontier does not offer direct flights to Orlando from Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City or Omaha,Neb. Instead, those flights are routed through Denver before doubling back to Orlando.
That fact has people from all over the Midwest heading to Columbia for flights to Orlando. Cost is a big factor, too. The flights are often cheaper than other options, even when people driving long distances to Columbia figure in the cost of gasoline.
Customers apparently are finding the flights convenient and inexpensive, City Manager Mike Matthes said during a recent meeting with county officials.
"I once met a large family at the airport who came from Omaha, (Neb.), because the tickets ended being so much cheaper," Matthes said.
For example, a roundtrip ticket to Orlando from Columbia leaving on April 19 and returning April 26 would cost about $110. The cost of similar flights would be about $512 from St. Louis, $432 from Kansas City, $496 from Chicago and $390 from Omaha.
Taylor Johnson of Marshfield is a student at the University of Central Florida who has taken advantage of the service.
“My mom booked my ticket," she said of a recent flight. "She picked Columbia because Frontier had the least expensive ticket for a direct flight from Missouri back to Orlando when she was booking."
Representatives of Frontier Airlines could not be reached for comment.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.