Columbia Regional Airport discusses plans for improvement

The desired changes will be submitted to the city council in a few months.

The Airport Advisory Board for the Columbia Regional Airport discussed a strategic plan for expansion at a meeting on Aug. 10.

The plan includes everything from general aviation and commercial air service to cargo service and general airport improvements.

Columbia Public Works Department spokeswoman Jill Stedem said the board will submit the plan to City Council for review in the next couple of months. She said it is currently just a wish list.

“It doesn’t mean that we have funding in place in order to make any of those things happen,” she said. “It just means that those are the things that are goals that the airport advisory board is going to work towards looking into.”

Stedem said they hope to expand their commercial air service. The airport has service through Delta to Memphis, Tenn. Expansion could include different destinations, larger planes or service through other air carriers.

According to the Airport Master Plan on the airport's website, the expansion plan also includes environmental considerations and aviation demand forecasts.

“We are at an 82 percent load factor, meaning out of all of the available seats that we have to sell we have sold 82 percent of those,” she said. “There’s not many seats left available and many of our flights are full when they leave here.”

Stedem said air carriers control changes in commercial air service, not the airport.

“The air carriers themselves decide what markets they’re in and right now they’re not making many changes,” she said. “So while we are ready to expand, the airlines are not doing many changes at this point and time because of the overall economy.”

The air carriers also set the prices for flights, so it is unknown how changes would change prices for passengers.

“We don’t set the prices," Stedem said. "We are mainly just a landlord to the air carrier services so we would have no control over how these changes would or would not affect the air service."

The airport is working on multiple projects, including expanding the runways and taxiways as well as improvements involving the airport’s infrastructure.

Among these changes include a new entrance into the airport off Highway 63, expected to be completed next fall.

“The exit to the airport right now is undergoing construction, so beginning Aug. 22, travelers going to and from the airport will need to take a detour route,” Stedem said. “There’s going to be a new interchange put in over Highway 63 as an entrance to the airport and Route H.”

Stedem said the airport has done some conceptual designs for a new airport terminal.

“We do not have any funding at this time for that project,” she said. “We are continuing to look at it but we don’t have any funding for engineering or construction.”

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