Passengers react to Trans States’ pullout

Friday, February 10, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:05 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Patrick Lee of Ashland flies out of the Columbia Regional Airport at least once a month for business purposes. Lee, a self-employed motivational speaker, was on his way to Washington on Thursday morning. His clients pay for travel expenses, he said, and his contract specifies the Columbia airport as his preferred departure location. While waiting to board the 6 a.m. flight, Lee said flying from Columbia is more reliable than driving to St. Louis.

“Traffic on I-70 is horrible, and with the possibility of accidents and construction, it would be hard to know when to leave for the airport,” Lee said.

Trans States Airlines announced Wednesday that it will discontinue service to the airport in June. If no other airline is found to replace it, the benefits of convenience, safety and short lines, which passengers such as Lee enjoy, will no longer be available. Trans States is the airport’s only commuter airline, offering four flights a day between Columbia and St. Louis.

“Lately, the flights have all been full,” Lee said.

After flying into Columbia on Wednesday night, Krista Watts of Osage Beach said check-in, security and parking are all faster and easier at the Columbia airport. Watts, a manager at Maurices in Osage Beach, said the greatest advantage to the Columbia airport is flying in employees for training who would otherwise have to drive from the St. Louis airport.

Despite the easy access, a cutback in flights can drive clients elsewhere.

Ronald Bly of Eldon, who returned from a business conference in Dallas on Wednesday night, said the timing of his flights meant a three-hour layover in St. Louis.

“I could have driven home in that time,” he said.

Business travelers such as Lee will have to continue to get to various locations one way or another. He hopes the Columbia airport will continue its commuter service. It helps make frequent travel a little easier, he said, he said.

“When I come home from a business trip, I’m actually home,” Lee said.

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