COLUMBIA, Missouri — Less than a decade after facing steadily declining use, passenger numbers at the Columbia Regional Airport are taking off and officials are discussing how to handle the welcome growth.
The Airport Advisory Board said Wednesday than an annual report showed that 53,080 passengers used the airport in 2014, about 10,000 more than the previous year and the most since 1987, The Columbia Missourian reported (http://bit.ly/1BL2nrj ). That continues a turnaround that began after the airport recorded steady passenger declines between 1989 and 2007 and did not provide any commercial service in 2008.
The airline now offers flights to Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago's O'Hare airport, which are both major hubs. Partly in response to the growth, the airport began using two 65-seat CRJ-700 jets this week, which will increase passenger capacity by 30 seats a day.
All flights to Chicago are using the CRJ-700 and all flights to Dallas-Fort Worth will use the jet beginning Feb. 16, Airport Manager Don Elliot said.
The turnaround is due mostly to better marketing, said Steven Sapp, spokesman for the Columbia Public Works Department. The marketing improvements includes a revamped website and more radio and TV spots advertising new flights and services offered this year.
"In 2007, we bottomed out at 9,000 passengers. Since then we've increased our marketing, improved our service and have gotten more flights as a result," Sapp said.
The advisory board also discussed possible upgrades to the airport's terminal, which was built in 1968. But board members were divided on whether passenger numbers needed to increase more before a new terminal was built.
But a strong holiday season gave officials hope the passenger numbers will continue to increase.
"Over Christmas we saw a lot of overflow with commuters — it was pretty exciting," said Public Works Director John Glascock. "If we can fill the seats, we're in good shape."
Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com
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