Or, Delta Airlines, Please Bring Our Midday Flight Back. Pretty, Pretty Please!
Update 2/7/2013 – After much airline drama, Delta will be leaving our town next week, and American Airlines will be starting service here on February 14. I am already booked on a Saturday morning flight that weekend to celebrate (and visit family). However, the fundamentals of this article still apply.
My town, Columbia, has about 100,000 people in it, and is the largest town in the immediate area. It seems that the Columbia Regional Airport has always struggled to fill flights. Part of the struggle in the not too distant past was the regional flight was to the St. Louis airport, which takes less than two hours to drive to. It just wasn’t worth it to mid-Missourians to fly rather than drive there, or take our fabulous airport van, MO-X (though I rarely use it for the reasons I’m about to list, I am a fan).
Then, a miracle. A Delta Airlines affiliate introduced three flights to their hub in Memphis, which at that time connected to 93 destinations. It’s been great. And while it took a bit of time for the community to embrace this new travel opportunity, enplanements have steadily risen to levels beyond what was initially said to be needed to sustain the service.
Then, disaster (ok, not that dramatic, but at least a setback). Delta dropped our midday flight from December through February. And the prices for the two remaining flights, I must say, have seen a little rise. It is questionable whether the wonderful Delta travel we’ve enjoyed the past couple years will continue at the same level.
But, even with worse flight times, longer layovers and higher prices, I still think is worth it to fly local and I’m committed to our Regional Airport. If you have a Regional Airport near you (especially mine!), I hope you’ll keep these factors in mind when deciding whether to use it:
1. Driving 90 minutes to that larger airport is essentially a “stop.”
People say they choose not to fly out of Columbia because they only fly nonstop. In reality, if you live in Mid-Missouri, you can’t fly nonstop. Your drive to St. Louis or Kansas City is essentially the first leg of your journey, and you have to allow extra time for traffic, parking and getting through security so you usually end up waiting at the gate anyway. So don’t kid yourself that just because your airline ticket says “nonstop” that you didn’t have a layover.
2. You have to pay for parking at larger airports and the gas to get there. And your time is worth something too.
See layover comment above regarding time. Even though you can drive to that other airport in about 90 minutes, you still have to park, wait for the parking shuttle, travel on it to the gate, stand in line to check your bag (maybe), stand in line for security, and then cool your heels in the gate area until boarding. At our Regional Airport, parking is free, the entrance is steps from the parking lot, and you can get there 30 minutes before your flights (unless you’re checking a bag, and then I think it is 45 minutes), go right through security (with very friendly and professional TSA agents; they should almost be their own reason to choose local) and board pretty much immediately.
So figure up what your gas, parking fee and time is worth and add it to the ticket price of that larger airport’s flights.
3. No one is going to pick you up 90 minutes away.
Sometimes, when I fly out of Columbia, my husband drops me off and picks me up. And sometimes, when we fly out together (like for the month we spent in Europe), his parents drop us off and pick us up (and bring our dog, Hodge, who we missed terribly on our trip).
We wouldn’t ask each other or them to drive 90 minutes to do that. And those times, it is so nice to get off the plane, be told “I love you and I’m glad you are home” and then be driven straight to your house. MO-X will sort of do that from the St. Louis airport, but none of their drivers has ever told me he loves me (and I wouldn’t expect them to).
4. Memphis is a really good airport for a layover.
Ok, this just applies to my Regional, or others connecting to Memphis. But it is true! Memphis is compact, not too busy and has yummy barbecue.
5. Air service is important to the economic health of your community (or at least to my community). Do it to make a difference!
Currently our city planners are trying to devise a plan to save the airport through a mixture of incentives and seat-purchase guarantees, to woo Delta into continuing our service and to encourage it or another airline to add a second destination to compliment Memphis (the Memphis connection is terrible if you want to fly west). I’m happy to do my part to help.
Most people agree that it is preferable to eat locally and shop locally. Why not try flying locally too?