COLUMBIA, Missouri — American Airlines plans to start using larger jets next year at Columbia Regional Airport to carry more passengers to Chicago and Dallas.
The airline service will provide bigger planes for Chicago flights starting in January and Dallas flights in February, The Columbia Daily Tribune (http://bit.ly/1tz2GRs ) reported. The increase in aircraft size is seen as a successful milestone for the central Missouri airport, which has rebounded from not providing commercial service at all in 2008.
American Airlines currently uses 44-seat and 50-seat jets for both destinations. It will use a jet that can hold up to 65 passengers.
Mayor Bob McDavid said at a Monday news conference that the city didn't need to extend its $3 million revenue guarantee, in place until February 2016, with American Airlines in order to upgrade its jets. However, the city has offered to waive its landing fees for the additional seats, which are based on the planes' weight.
Airport superintendent Don Elliott said the waiver is worth about $160,000 each year. Columbia officials already agreed to waive $320,000 worth of landing fees over the course of the revenue guarantee — comprised of contributions from the city, Jefferson City, two counties, the University of Missouri and a group of private investors.
Over the past few weeks, city officials have said a third destination might be forthcoming, but McDavid said talks are "ongoing." A consultant has completed an analysis for Columbia that says Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, North Carolina; and Orlando, Florida, are viable options.
Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com