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An American Eagle plane from American Airlines at Columbia Regional Airport (March 12, 2022 file photo courtesy of COU airport manager Michael Parks)

(LISTEN): Ashland businessman wants to see United return to Columbia Regional Airport

An American Eagle plane from American Airlines at Columbia Regional Airport (March 12, 2022 file photo courtesy of COU airport manager Michael Parks)

Columbia Regional Airport’s (COU) manager says both he and Columbia Regional Economic Development Incorporated (REDI) president Stacey Button continue to work hard to establish new flights for mid-Missouri.

American Airlines has announced that they’ll be adding more flights from COU to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) this spring. Mr. Parks is also hopeful of getting new service to Charlotte. Ashland businessman Tom Kahrmann is a lifetime million mile flier on United, flying them extensively for business. Mr. Kahrmann tells 939 the Eagle he wants United to resume service at COU and prefers to be able to fly nonstop to Denver, which has many nonstops onward.

“At the moment, we are being forced to fly American. Charlotte is being added as a destination, but there are at least ten popular locations United flies from Denver. Examples are Tokyo, Heathrow, Rome, Athens and four Hawaii locations that are nonstop. American does not fly nonstop to any of these locations from Charlotte,” Kahrmann says.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson, Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe and other dignitaries cut the ribbon on Columbia Regional Airport’s new $23-million new terminal, which is 52,000 square feet (October 19, 2022 file photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page)

Mr. Parks and Ms. Button traveled to Scottsdale for last week’s air service conference. Mr. Parks confirms they sat down with multiple airlines to discuss the need for additional service to Chicago, Dallas and multiple other connections and destinations. Mr. Kahrmann says mid-Missouri’s business community needs United and the Denver flights.

“We have some significant manufacturers, such as Quaker and 3M medical devices for example. Business people need to have the freedom to travel without driving two-and-a-half or three hours, especially those who travel weekly as I have done pretty constantly in my business career,” says Kahrmann.

COU manager Michael Parks is hopeful of obtaining new service to Charlotte. United’s last COU  departure was in January 2022. Mr. Parks says Columbia Regional Airport 97,008 enplanements in 2023. Springfield-Branson National Airport had more than one-million passengers last year. Kahrmann says Springfield gets more traffic due to multiple routes, but says there’s demand in Columbia.

“Springfield Airport, I did some research, in Greene County has a little over 500,000 people and yet had 1.3 million passengers in 2023. Over 50 percent of Boone County has a bachelor’s degree or higher. There are almost 400,000 people in Boone and adjacent counties. So in my opinion, there’s a large pent-up demand to use Columbia and our $23-million expansion,” says Kahrmann.

Springfield-Branson National Airport has American Airlines, along with United, Allegiant and Delta.

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