American Airlines started flying a larger aircraft to Columbia from Dallas Thursday, increasing passenger capacity on the route.
The airline’s CRJ900 aircraft carries about 15 more passengers than the CRJ700 previously flying on the route.
Airport Manager Mike Parks said passengers would notice the difference.
“One of the benefits of the new aircraft…is having the two bathrooms as well, so there’s one in the front and one in the back,” Parks said. “And then, of course extended leg room and so forth throughout the aircraft,” Parks said.
The expanded jet might reflect the Columbia Regional Airport’s overall growth over the last several years.
While the number of passengers using the Columbia Regional Airport was down in December compared to previous months, the airport has seen a general positive trend, according to numbers from the airport advisory board.
Those same figures show the number of people who boarded a flight at the Columbia Regional Airport last year was more than seven times the number of people who got on a flight in 2007.
“Well I think that the passenger demand is there,” Parks said. “As soon as you arrive at the airport, you notice that parking has become – starting to become – a lot more limited out there.”
The growing aircraft is a good sign for an airport that is headed for a major terminal upgrade.
Airport management has plans to build a new terminal on the north end of the airport property by 2020.
“If you come into the main terminal here in Columbia, you see that we definitely have a need for more room,” Parks said. “The screening takes a large portion out of there.”
The new terminal would include many of the amenities management has been anxious for: a restaurant, a larger security area, more space and better passenger flow and a larger room to wait for flights.
American Airlines will continue to fly the slightly smaller CRJ700 aircraft between Columbia and Chicago.