Columbia City Council approves American Airlines deal

Flights could take off beginning in February.
Mayor Bob McDavid talks with a reporter after a special meeting Monday morning. City Council members approved all four ordinances of a deal with American Airlines that would provide flights to Chicago and Dallas from Columbia Regional Airport.

Arrivals and departures of American Airlines flights are one step closer to landing at Columbia Regional Airport.

On Monday the Columbia City Council unanimously approved four ordinances supporting daily flights to Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The two-year deal between Columbia Regional Airport and American Airlines includes a $3 million revenue guarantee for the airline. The revenue guarantee will allow the city to pay no more than $1.5 million per year to American Airlines in order to compensate for any losses from the deal.

Initially, $3 million will be placed in the fund. Columbia Regional Airport will contribute $1.2 million, the largest amount. Thirty-nine businesses from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce will collectively contribute $600,000. Boone County and MU will each contribute $500,000, and Jefferson City and Cole County will each contribute $100,000.

“We need to be bold and pursue opportunities to grow the airport,” Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said. “There are profits to be made with providing this important service to folks in this region.”

American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines, will provide the daily flights. Two flights will depart from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and one flight will depart to Chicago O’Hare International Airport daily.

“I think there’s a huge existing demand, not only for businesses, but for a lot of individuals who fly in and out of Columbia for their jobs all the time,” Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said. “They would love to use Columbia as an airport. We have missed opportunities for conventions and national gatherings and events because of the lack of capacity for our airport.”

To promote the flights before they begin in February, the city has partnered with Zimmer Radio to ensure the flights will be full. The group donated $150,000 in advertising, and Columbia contributed an additional $50,000.

“Our hope is that we fill the planes before they start flying,” City Manager Mike Matthes said. “This is remarkable. I’ve never seen something like this in my career. I think the region can be proud that it is working together like this. It’s fairly rare.”

Columbia and the airport are awaiting approval from American Airlines.

At the end of the meeting, Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said he hopes to begin negotiations with Delta Airlines this week. The city might extend a similar revenue guarantee to Delta. Delta currently sends flights between Columbia and Atlanta, Ga.

“I believe that we have proposals and initiatives that I believe will expand (Delta's) footprint in Missouri,” McDavid said.

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