Airport Manager Addresses Passenger Complaints Over Restrooms

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Regional Airport Manager Don Elliott responded to passenger complaints Friday morning after a delayed flight kept them in the waiting area after security with no bathroom. A mechanical issue with the plane delayed the flight by more than three hours.

The flight was scheduled to depart for Dallas at 6 p.m. Thursday, but it didn't take off until 9:28 p.m. One of the passengers told KOMU 8 News that she was stuck in the waiting area with no restrooms and no working vending machine. Because passengers had already gone through security, they could not leave the room without being re-screened. She said there were no TSA agents around to assist with those requests.

Elliott said a TSA agent was still at the airport when the passengers were asked to get off the plane around 8 p.m. and wait for crews to fix the problem. He said a TSA agent did allow one person to use the restroom during the wait.

He said there's no restroom in that part of the building because there's no sewer lines running under it. He said it's actually a double wide trailer the city added onto the building as a temporary fix in the late 1970s.

"When the terminal was built, that was before they had any type of airport screening. And once they started screening, we had to find a place to put the passengers. So, this building is a temporary solution about 30 plus years ago," Elliott said.

He said the city is currently talking with a contractor about how to add restrooms to the waiting area. However, the project could be expensive since no sewer lines are close by.

"It serves us well right now, but it's not passenger friendly. We're working to eventually install restrooms in these buildings, which would be quite difficult," Elliott said.

The waiting area building is one of three double wide trailers added onto the main terminal building. The third double wide was added about a year ago and now serves as the baggage claim. The airport bought it from Columbia Public Schools when the district no longer needed it.