COU expands flight services to Denver, adds Chicago flights

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COLUMBIA - Passengers at Columbia Regional Airport (COU) will soon have more flight options.

United Airlines confirmed it will begin offering daily flights to Denver International Airport and twice-daily service to Chicago O'Hare International Airport starting Aug. 1, 2017.

Airline travelers can reserve seats on COU's new United flights immediately at

In a recent Passenger Demand Analysis, COU found that Denver was one of the most requested destination cities for mid-Missouri airline passengers. 

"I think that this is exactly what passengers want, and we're excited to be making that opportunity available to them," said airport manager Michael Parks.

Since 2010, COU's passenger counts have increased by 85 percent; last month's passenger counts set new records for both departures and arrivals. The addition of services to Denver is expected to increase COU passengers' access to connecting flights.

"Connectivity is one of the most important factors for travelers," said Columbia Mayor Brian Treece in a press conference on Monday. "Increasing connectivity means you can get anywhere in the world from COU with fewer connections and the convenience of not having to drive to Kansas City or St. Louis."

United's flight offerings will join American Airlines' current services from COU to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Columbia and airport leaders said the addition of the flights to Denver might help Columbia's economy take off by helping the area land new businesses. 

"Service from Denver to Columbia provides opportunities for people from the western U.S. to travel to Columbia and mid-Missouri to conduct business, to go to college, to receive world-class healthcare and life-saving treatment, as well as enjoy our premier cultural activities," Treece said.

Aurora Organic Dairy of Boulder, Colorado, which plans to develop a dairy products plant in the Columbia area, is one example of a business that could benefit from the increased connectivity to Denver.

"It sends a clear message that Columbia, and Boone County and mid-Missouri is a great place to expand and relocate and grow and invest," Treece said.

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said the state capital embraces the new flight offerings as a way to further enhance mid-Missouri's attractiveness as a tourist destination.

"Any time we can expand access and transportation and flights into the mid-Missouri area, it really benefits our entire community," Tergin said.

Treece said there will be a public hearing and final vote on the business agreement with United on March 20. 

During Monday's press conference, Treece also announced the expansion of COU's 50-year-old crosswind runway. Emery Sapp & Son will begin construction work on the runway next Wednesday, lengthening the runway by 1,000 feet and expanding it by 25 feet to accomodate additional commercial aircraft.