Columbus Airport Commission offers incentives to get American Airlines back in market with Charlotte, D-FW

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — There is a new airline service in Columbus.

American Airlines started flying in and out of the Columbus Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

The Columbus Airport Commission put financial incentives on the table to land American as the second carrier in the market – joining Delta Connection.

American Airlines will start with four flights a day serving Columbus.

Three will connect with the airline’s hub in Charlotte. The fourth flight will connect with the hub at Dallas-Fort Worth.

“The airport itself has made a great investment by waiving certain fees to allow the airline to operate at a low cost,” said Amber Clark, the Columbus Airport Director. “And we have also applied for a small-community air-service development grant that was awarded to us by the Department of Transportation. This will also help the airline offset any shortcomings, but we don’t expect that to happen. But it is there just in case.”

Waiving the terminal rent, landing fees, and some gate fees will save American about $225,000 over the next two years. The grant puts more than $900,000 in federal and local money in play.

“The fact that we were able to take advantage of the incentives is a definite feather in the cap to help us grow this market as we have in other markets,” said James Seadler, American Airlines Manager Cooperate Real Estate, Regional Division.

Seadler uses Panama City, Fla., as an example.

“… We went in there and started very small with incentive,” Seadler said. “Now, we have grown it even with large aircraft, we have tripled our operations in that market.”

And Seadler says there is plenty of reason to be in Columbus.

“This is the second-largest market in the state of Georgia and that’s a definite sign to us of the growth,” he said. “We have Fort Benning down the road so we have the ability to provide service to the government with the military. And there are a number of factors we look at when we are looking at markets. Incentives do help. I don’t deny that. But’s not the only reason we look.”

The Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning strongly supports air travel from the Columbus Airport, said Fort Benning Garrison Commander Col. Alex Rivera.

“During 2019 Fort Benning booked 37,022 flights for official travel, plus an additional 20,000 reservations made to travel to Fort Benning Infantry, Armor and Cavalry initial entry training,” Rivera said in a statement from the post Public Affairs Office. “Fort Benning trains over 60,000 Soldiers annually and many of these courses are short duration. Specifically, during the December holiday season, another 2,000-3,000 Soldiers book their flights to spend time with their loved ones. All travelers stand to benefit from an additional airline operating from the Columbus Airport that can service multiple destinations.”

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