COLUMBIA — Delta Airlines closed its agent desk right after its last flight out of Columbia Regional Airport on Wednesday.
At the very same desk Delta had closed hours earlier, airport staff and American Airlines representatives installed equipment in preparation for the first American flight out of Columbia. That flight departed Thursday, the same day American announced its $11-billion merger with US Airways.
American has made a deal with Columbia to provide non-stop service for a two-year trial period from Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas-Ft. Worth, said Lorin Carr, a manager for corporate real estate at American. The company joins Frontier, which began non-stop flights from Columbia to Orlando, Fla. in November.
Don Elliott, Columbia Regional’s manager, said at least 40 regional organizations and local businesses have pooled financial resources to attract American to Columbia. Elliott said the airline probably would not have made the move if not for financial guarantees from a group of local backers that includes Regional Economic Development, Inc., or REDI.
Greg Cecil is chair of the airport advisory board and said he hopes the ease of access to Columbia from Chicago and Dallas will mean business people want to come to the area more frequently than when Atlanta and Memphis were the only hubs. Cecil said the projected increase in travelers to the area can only be good for business.
Elliott said travelers coming from western departure points did not like having to connect in Atlanta or Memphis because they would fly past Columbia and then retrace part of their route, wasting time. He said connections directly to the north and south are much more attractive.