With all council members in agreement, Greg Cecil, member of the Columbia Regional Airport Advisory Board, might have said it best. “It’s a short-term fix, but I think we need to look at the larger picture,” he said.
At its meeting Monday night, the City Council decided to support Mesa Air Group’s proposal. In a letter that will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the council will request that an earlier flight be added to work with Mesa to improve standards, to continue to attract commercial air carriers and for Mesa to confirm their code share with Midwest Airlines, among other things.
Mesa, Columbia Regional Airport’s sole air carrier, proposed to eliminate all 12 flights to St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport and double the number of flights to Kansas City International Airport to 24.
Passengers wanting to fly to St. Louis will now have to drive there or fly to Kansas City and make a connection.
Mesa cited the need to get rid of St. Louis flights because the air carrier has more connection opportunities in Kansas City.
The new schedule proposed by Mesa would include connections to New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Jeffrey Hartz, manager of Mesa’s Essential Air Service Program, said the code share opportunity will allow for about 33 destinations and about 70 departures per day in Kansas City.
“I think there is an issue of going west before you go east,” said Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala.
The comments voiced at Monday’s public hearing will be attached to Mesa’s proposal to the transportation department.
Because Mesa is under contract to the department of transportation and because it receives a subsidy, the department will have ultimate say over what happens, said Bill Mosley, spokesman for the transportation department.
“If and when we get a filing from the carrier (Mesa), we will make a decision based on the community’s views and whether the proposal meets the community’s needs under (the Essential Air Service program),” Mosley said.
The air service program was created to guarantee small communities continued air service.
“It is interesting that when American Connection was providing service as a ‘free-market situation,’ we had about a 90 percent completion rate on flights as well as about a 90 percent on-time rate,” Cecil said, referring to conditions before Mesa took over in October 2006.
“Now we have government-subsidized service and the service is not acceptable,” he said.