COLUMBIA — A southwest wind swept across the tarmac at Columbia Regional Airport on Wednesday afternoon as the dull roar of a twin-engine CR-J 200 airplane signaled the final departure of a Delta Air Lines flight from Columbia Regional Airport.
The flight, which left at about 12:30 p.m., was destined for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Although the flights have been popular since they began in the fall, Delta decided to discontinue providing air service to and from the Columbia airport. That decision came after the city offered a two-year, $3 million revenue guarantee to American Airlines to provide flights to and from Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth.
Here's a look at the flight schedule for American Airlines at Columbia Regional Airport.
Daily departures from Columbia to Dallas-Fort Worth:
- 6:45 a.m., arriving in Dallas-Fort Worth at 8:35 a.m.
- 5:40 p.m., arriving in Dallas-Fort Worth at 7:25 p.m.
Daily departures from Columbia to Chicago O'Hare:
- 1:55 p.m., arriving in Chicago at 3:20 p.m.
Daily arrivals from Dallas-Fort Worth:
- Departing Dallas-Fort Worth at noon, arriving in Columbia at 1:25 p.m.
- Departing Dallas-Fort Worth at 6:55 p.m., arriving in Columbia at 8:25 p.m.
Daily arrivals from Chicago:
- Departing Chicago at 3:55 p.m., arriving in Columbia at 5:10 p.m.
Source: Columbia Regional Airport
The city tried to keep Delta here by offering a similar guarantee, but Delta rejected the offer.
Columbia Regional Airport Manager Don Elliot said he was sorry to see Delta pull out.
"We would have loved to see Delta stay," he said. "Hopefully, we can have them back again one day."
The task for Elliot and his colleagues now is to create a smooth transition to the American Airlines service, which begins Thursday with a first flight to Dallas-Fort Worth at 6:45 a.m. and a first flight to Chicago O'Hare International Airport at 1:55 p.m., according to the Columbia airport's flight schedule.
"The Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare destinations have long been on the most desired destination list of travelers in mid-Missouri," a Wednesday news release from the Columbia Public Works Department said.
The transition from Delta to American was swift Wednesday. Within minutes of Delta's last flight, crews had already to begun to remodel and repaint the ticket counter to reflect American Airlines' color scheme. A new marquee and new ticket kiosks are planned.
The Chamber of Commerce will host a ceremony welcoming American to the Columbia airport from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday. Mayor Bob McDavid and Mayor Eric Struemph of Jefferson City plan to attend, along with representatives from the Cole and Boone County commissions.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Kristi Ray said the chamber sees the switch from Delta to American as a very good move.
"For the business community, we are thrilled to have American Airlines as a partner," Ray said. Ray said that after holding meetings with business leaders, American Airlines has offered to match the miles businesses accumulated with Delta Airlines and to offer special fares to entice patrons.
With two daily flights bound for Dallas-Fort Worth and one daily bound for Chicago, Elliot said he is optimistic that people throughout the area will continue to fly from Columbia.
"With these flights to these two hubs, people can connect anywhere in the world," Elliot said.
Dallas-Fort Worth is the main hub for American Airlines, offering 1,900 flights per day and serving more than 57 million travelers every year, according to statistics released by the Columbia Public Works Department. The department also touted Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as one of America's best-connected airports and for many years the busiest airport in the United States.
Ray said she, too, also was enthusiastic about the future of air service in Columbia. The addition of flights to Dallas and Chicago will pay dividends for local businesses, she said.
"The fact is we now have access to two huge markets for us," Ray said. "... Though we are sorry we lost Atlanta, we aren't resting on our laurels. We still have our sights set on Denver and maybe one day regaining flights to Atlanta."
Elliot said he hopes to re-establish a partnership with Delta at some point.
"We never try or want to burn a bridge," Elliot said. "We would love to have Delta back, but right now our priority is a smooth transition with American Airlines."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.