New Chamber Report Hopes to Improve Columbia Airport

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council's regular meeting Monday night will discuss a new report from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce regarding Columbia Regional Airport's future.

The main concern is the airport's target market share, measuring how many passengers in mid-Missouri use the airport, as opposed to St. Louis or Kansas City. The current share is eight percent with a goal of 40 percent by 2020.

But chamber executive vice president Kristi Ray said she is confident the airport will reach its goal. "We have made huge strides in the past year with the addition of American. This allowed us to increase our number of seats." The airport lost Delta with the American addition, and will lose Frontier Airlines as well.

But Ray said when Delta originally came to the airport, it did not increase the number of seats available to passengers. "It really didn't get us any where," Ray said.

Ray said by now adding two locations and additional flights, the airport was able to increase its market share. She said to continue this increase, all stakeholders will have to continue to improve the airport's runways and terminals, marketing tactics and airline service.

"As the citizens have seen, airlines come and go and they come and go at their leisure, not ours," Ray said.

The chamber report said ridership at the airport dwindled from an all-time high of 67,558 passengers in 1978 to 38,000 travelers in 2011. It also said industry experts expect 100 of the 450 U.S. airports to lose service by 2020.

The chambers outlined additional goals in the new report to ensure Columbia Regional Airport does not become part of this statistic. It wants to increase the departures from three to six per day, replace 50-seat passenger jets with a minimum of 66 seats and increase average load from 80 to 85 percent.

The chamber said in its report the key stakeholders in this project are the University of Missouri, Columbia, Jefferson City, Boone, Callaway and Cole counties, regional businesses, state government, and potentially the Lake of the Ozarks.

The Columbia City Council will discuss this new chamber report at 7 p.m. at city hall.