COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Columbus airport’s plans to possible expand service to Charlotte, NC could take off with local business leaders. But to officially make it happen, it would take time, money and a bit of convincing. Currently, the airport solely services Atlanta through Delta Airlines. The local airport handles about 3-4 flights to and from Georgia’s capital each day. But, officials are looking to spread their wings when it comes to flight service.
“A 30 minute flight to Atlanta is really difficult sometimes if you really are trying to be convenient,” Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brian Anderson said. “You can get bumped back and deal with weather and traffic.”
So airport officials are working on adding service to Charlotte. The Columbus airport services about 70,000 passengers each year. But as they consider a possible service expansion to the Queen City, the potential move could double that number.
“Any time you have more business, it’s good for everybody,” Anderson said. “If there’s a chance to have another airline that provides competition, that keeps prices in line.”
Airport director Richard Howell says American airlines would provide service to Charlotte. From 2011-2013, American Airlines offered flights to Dallas from Columbus. That stopped after American merged with U.S. Airways in 2013. Howell says this new expansion would be a game changer.
“It overlays so much of Delta’s existing system service from the Columbus market,” Howell said. “So we want to be able to compete on a variety of levels: domestically and internationally.”
Howell says the move could save passengers valuable travel time. And in saving time for travelers, the airport staff hopes to revitalize Columbus runways. In the early 2000’s, Columbus serviced as many as five different airlines.
“That hour or two hours that you spend on the road or in the line at TSA,” Howell explained. “We can put you in the parking lot, on the airplane, and you can already be seated on the plane going to your destination and the only thing you did was spend 20 minutes driving to the airport.”
Local leaders hope for enough support to get the potential expansion project off the ground. Currently, the airport has $750,000 in federal grant money. However, they’d like to obtain a better indication of how much in private funds they could potentially draw on pending an American Airlines expansion. The Chamber of Commerce will gauge interest at a breakfast Thursday at 7:30 a.m. Eastern. If there is enough support, Howell predicts, service to Charlotte could start as early as this fall or next spring.
“If you have a status quo or flat line airport, you get one level of service,” Anderson said. “If you’ve got a growing, and more positive growth in revenue, then you’ve got a chance to have a more viable amenity and service.”