Airline interested in adding flights out of Columbia

The new planes will require an expansion of the main runway
Sunday, June 17, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:41 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Las Vegas-based airline has expressed interest in flying into and out of Columbia Regional Airport.

Allegiant Air has talked with city officials about adding future commercial air service at Columbia Regional. Spokeswoman Tyri Squyres said the airline likes to fly to and from “underserved cities” or smaller markets.

About Allegiant

    Allegiant Air serves small cities around the U.S., and prides itself on affordable ticket prices and nonstop flights. From Springfield, Allegiant flies to:
  • Las Vegas. Fares start at $89.
  • Orlando. Fares start at $69.
  • Tampa Bay. Fares start at $69.
  • Source:

Squyres said conversations with Columbia have been ongoing for some time.

“Columbia is a geographic and demographic area of interest for us,” she said, adding that the discussions thus far have been only preliminary.

City Manager Bill Watkins has publicly expressed the city’s interest in adding new commercial flight destinations from Columbia Regional, including Dallas, Chicago and Las Vegas.

Allegiant doesn’t currently serve Dallas or Chicago, but it flies from Springfield to Las Vegas and two airports in Florida. Its MD-80 series aircraft are configured to hold 130 or 150 seats, depending on the destination.

Fares from Springfield to Las Vegas start at $89 each way, according to the airline’s Web site.

Columbia has been looking for a way to give the airport a boost as it suffers from declining passenger numbers. The only commercial air service at Columbia Regional is provided by U.S. Airways Express, which on July 8 will stop flying to St. Louis and will offer four daily flights to and from Kansas City.

U.S. Airways Express is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Transportation through its essential air service program.

Despite its recent struggles, the airport remains a city priority, Watkins said, and commercial flights are a major part of that.Allegiant is not likely to begin services any time soon. The city would have to lengthen its main runway to between 7,500 feet and 8,000 feet to accommodate Allegiant’s aircraft, Watkins said. The runway now is only 6,500 feet long.

Based on Federal Aviation Administration recommendations, Columbia Regional is preparing to update its master plan within two years. Its primary goal, according to Airport Manager Kathy Frerking, is to reconstruct and extend the airport’s two runways.

“The runways have aged,” Frerking said. “In order for the airport to grow, we need to plan improvements now.”

Frerking said the city will draft a request for proposals within several months to search for a consultant who will prepare the master plan. The consultant would then submit the plan to the FAA in 2008 or 2009.

The FAA now funds 95 percent of the airport’s capital improvement projects, she said. FAA entitlement funds totaling $1 million per year also make up the airport’s budget for capital improvements.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said the airport should begin drafting its update soon to secure federal funding for its respective projects.

“This will help in determining federal funding for the project,” Cory said.

In addition to runway improvements, Frerking said the plan will update all other forecasts, including passenger traffic and other airport operations.The FAA recommends all airports in the United States update their respective master plans on a five-year cycle. Columbia Regional last had its airport plan approved by the city in 2003.

Frerking is optimistic that through careful and detailed planning, the airport will draft a plan and receive FAA funds.

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