Cedar Rapids Sets Model for Columbia Regional Airport

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COLUMBIA - Next week, Mid-Missouri travelers will head in different directions if they're flying out of the Columbia Regional Airport. Since Delta Airlines is departing, and American Airlines is arriving, customers will now fly to Chicago or Dallas instead of Memphis or Atlanta. 

In this 8 On Your Side report, KOMU 8 News took a 230-mile car trip to check out the airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Eastern Iowa Regional Airport is home to five airlines: United, American, Delta Frontier and Alligiant. The airport also provides the community with 25 daily flights to Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and beyond. 

Other than a little advertising and reduced landing fees, the airlines serving Cedar Rapids are given no guarantees. The airport has been sustainable for a quarter of a century, but Columbia Regional has not. How does Cedar Rapids, a city just a bit bigger than Columbia, operate an airport with 5 major airlines, and 25 daily flights, without guarantees? The key word is partnership. 

"You have to understand your current assets, which employers are in your area, and what are their needs from the airport," Dee Baird, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance director Dee Baird said. "Then, you have to work with your airport management and the economic development team, so it advances the needs of the business community. And if you can do that, you can sell your story to the airlines."

Cedar Rapids is also full of huge employers, ranging from Avionics to breakfast cereal. The companies rely on the airlines, and the airlines rely on the city's diversified economy.