COU airport plans flights to Charlotte after receiving grant

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COLUMBIA – The city's big plans for Columbia Regional Airport (COU) got a shot in the arm Friday with the announcement of a grant.

The $800,000 grant aims to help the city open up air service to Charlotte, NC. COU was one of 18 recipients to be awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP).

According to Steven Sapp, City of Columbia community relations director, adding flights to the east coast would help complete COU reach a wider audience.

“We only serve about 23% of the people in mid-Missouri,” said Sapp. “Everyone else either flies out of St. Louis or Kansas City so we are looking to up that number.”

According to a City of Columbia news release, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said "expanded air service to Charlotte means enhanced connections throughout the eastern U.S. which brings new and exciting economic and travel opportunities to mid Missouri."

Officials were not able to say when exactly flights to Charlotte would begin, but said the next point of action is to draft a contract with American Airlines.

COU flyer, Pam Dollich, said flights to Charlotte would help her stay connected with family.

“This is the first time in a long time my sister has come home to Moberly,” said Dollich. “A lot of it has to do with the amount of connecting flights she has to take to get here. With flights straight to Charlotte, I could fly right to her and vice versa.”

Dollich’s sister was on a plane to Chicago to connect in Charlotte and fly back to her final destination in South Carolina.

Sapp said the new addition will help round out COU’s compass.

“Right now we service the north with Chicago, west with Denver, south with Dallas and now we will be able to cover the east with Charlotte,” said Sapp.