Inaugural Flight Departs for Atlanta

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Regional Airport was nearly empty just before 9 a.m. Thursday--no airport employees, no airline representatives, neatly stacked bins near security check and no passengers. But in an instant, the first few passengers for the inaugural Delta Airlines non-stop flight to Atlanta began to arrive and the airport started to buzz.

TSA employees strapped on light blue latex gloves, Delta Airlines employees appeared out of nowhere and passengers lined up to get their tickets and board the plane. One passenger said he was headed to New York from Atlanta. Another said she was bound for Charlotte, NC. Regardless of destination, a number of passengers agreed that the convenience of the new flight overshadowed the cost -- more than $400 for some.

Members of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce offered peanut butter cookies, peach cupcakes and coffee to the 45 passengers on the first flight to celebrate the occasion. The plane holds 50 total.

"We're very excited about the connection to Atlanta and so we were thinking, 'Atlanta, Georgia' and peaches and peanuts came to mind," said Sabrina McDonnell, a Chamber of Commerce volunteer. "It was a fun way to tie in the food, celebrate the passengers that are departing this morning on the first flight to Atlanta."

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid and other area chambers of commerce plan to welcome the first flight from Atlanta Thursday afternoon, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony.