Comparing Columbia Regional Airport To Its Competitors

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BOONE COUNTY - Airline travel continues to be a highly debated issue in mid-Missouri.  It's been more than a year since American Airlines began providing mid-Missourians with service to Chicago and Dallas through Columbia Regional Airport. City officials believe they have found a long term solution with American after previous airlines Delta and Frontier struggled.

Steven Sapp is a public information specialist for Columbia Public Works.  He said Columbia Regional's business is improving, and that it is partly due to better destinations for travelers. 

"Now that you can fly to Chicago [and] Dallas, that you can catch two daily flights to either of those destinations, and the fact that those are the hubs for American Airlines and many others, it really opened the options up for air travel in Mid-Missouri," he said.

While destinations are improving and prices decreasing at Columbia Regional, one main question remains: Does it make sense to fly directly out of Columbia, or travel to Kansas City or St. Louis before flying?

Even though air fares vary by airline and city, it almost always makes sense to fly out of Columbia if you are going to either Chicago or Dallas, the airport's two non-stop destinations.  While the fares are slightly higher going out of Columbia, the cost of taking a shuttle service like Mo-Ex, along with the additional time required to go to either Kansas City or St. Louis means Columbia is the better value.

At the same time, it usually makes sense to fly out of one of the state's large airports when traveling to a destination outside Chicago or Dallas.  Not only are the flights more expensive out of Columbia and require a second flight, but passengers can fly directly to their desired destination after driving to Kansas City or St. Louis.

Of course, not every situation is the same, and there are examples where flying out of Columbia Regional to distant cities makes sense, even with a higher fare and additional flight.  As a rule of thumb, add 200 dollars to the airfare when going to St. Louis, and 225 dollars when going to Kansas City.  Those figures are calculated by taking the 100 dollar Mo-Ex fare plus the cost of travel time at 25 dollars per hour.

Despite the improved business at Columbia Regional, Mo-Ex's owner, Norm Reubling, said there hasn't been any shortage of mid-Missourians using his shuttle service.  "2013 was our best year," he said, "and 2014, barring any kind of strange tragedy- you never know what's going to go on in our world- but it looks like 2014 is going to be even better than 2013."

While Columbia leaders don't control airline prices, they do want to encourage travelers to consider all costs before making a decision.

"What we are trying to show people, and we have been very succcessful in doing this so far, is that sometimes the lowest based ticket price doesn't mean it's the cheapest way to travel," Sapp said.

According to Sapp, one way they are doing so is by installing a price comparison tool on Columbia Regional Airport's website, flymidmo.com.

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