Columbia airport prepares for more passengers


COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Columbia Regional Airport is preparing for passenger numbers to take off in August, when United Airlines begins flights to Denver and Chicago.

More parking spots, indoor seating and security agents are being added in anticipation of thousands more passengers after United Airlines begins a daily flight to Denver International Airport and twice-daily flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Aug 1, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2sUVkkK).

The city’s economic development director, Stacey Button, told the Airport Advisory Board Wednesday the United flights are expected to bring in about 80,000 inbound and outbound passengers to the airport this year. She said American Airlines also is forecast to attract 145,000 passengers this year, a 14 percent increase from last year. In 2016, 128,000 passengers flew in and out of the airport.

Parking lot additions are underway, with 258 spots to be added, bringing the total number of parking spots to 900 at the airport. Airport Manager Mike Parks said an additional 62 seats have been added inside the airport.

A wheelchair ramp and automatic doors that meet American Disabilities Act standards have also been installed at the south end of the airport.

The Transportation Security Administration also is planning to hire more staff, Parks said, although he didn’t have specific numbers.

TSA also will begin using a new luggage scanner for outgoing flights, which will create a centralized point for luggage and speeding up luggage loading, Parks said.

And mutual aid responders have also switched gates to provide faster response times in emergencies, Parks said.

Meanwhile, the city is awaiting word on potential federal funding for a new terminal at the airport. In August 2016, Columbia voters approved an increase from 4 to 5 percent in the hotel and motel tax to finance the new terminal. That tax is expected to contribute $10 million to the project’s estimated cost of $40 million.

The state appropriated $2.5 million in its 2018 fiscal year budget and the city will apply for $20 million in Federal Aviation Administration funding, Button said. The FAA also needs to respond to three locations the city has identified as potential sites for the new terminal, she said.

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