Columbia Discusses Future of Airport

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Regional Airport is sending full planes in and out of Columbia one month after American Airlines joined the airport, said Mayor Bob McDavid.

Passengers said they had good experiences on the flight and in the airport. Liz Nangle, a passenger who flew from Dallas to visit her family in Moberly, said it is much more convenient to fly to Columbia instead of Kansas City. She only needs to drive 30 minutes from Columbia to Moberly, but it takes two hours if she drives from Kansas City.

James Jones, who flew from Southern California to Dallas and then to Columbia for business, said he always prefers to use a small airport.

"I like the convenience of smaller airports. It's easier to get in and out, the security is not a large line, and the people are more friendly," Jones said.

Mayor Bob McDavid said he is optimistic with the airport, and he believes that the city is capable of sustaining more air services.

"In my opinion we are capable of handling about 500 passengers a day. If we can retain 40% of the market in this area, it will require 500 passengers a day. And that's very doable," McDavid said.

McDavid added that the airport would require a new terminal if the city does achieve the goal of handling 500 passengers. He said the current terminal was built in 1969 and does not have TSA security.

McDavid said the model the city is using is the same one used in Manhattan, Kansas, which is only 60 percent of Columbia's size. But the airport there now has three planes a day to Chicago and three planes a day to Dallas.

"We are very capable of that much of many flights, and that's really our goal. We simply need more spaces to pull that off," McDavid said.

The city is now consulting about the airport services, what project the city needs, and how much a new terminal costs. McDavid said the money could come from an issued bond, federal government funding, or a local revenue like a hotel occupancy tax increase.

"Columbia has a lower hotel occupancy tax than Jefferson City, St. Louis, and Kansas City... We will require a vote in Columbia if we decide to choose this option," McDavid said.

Nangle said she wishes the airport could have more flights or more airlines to choose from. And Jones said he wishes the airport could have more food options.

"My expectation is, by the year 2020, we have 500 passengers a day, flying in and out in Columbia. And we have an airport terminal that supports 3 gates with jet ways," McDavid said.