Columbia Metro Airport Adding Flights to Memphis

Pack those blue suede shoes: Graceland and Beale Street will be 90 minutes from Columbia starting in the fall.

Northwest Airlines on Oct. 2 begins nonstop flights between Memphis International Airport and Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Pinnacle Airlines will operate the 50-seat regional jets for Northwests Airlink regional service. Tickets go on sale Saturday.

The addition of these two daily flights culminates four years of lobbying by the Columbia airport staff, said Mike Flack, executive director.

The significance of the service to the Columbia airport stretches a lot further than Memphis. Northwest flies to 94 cities from Memphis, including seasonal flights to the Caribbean and year-round flights to Cancun, Mexico.

Flack said Memphis is a new option for those people who dont want to go through Atlanta.

That is precisely what Northwest has planned siphoning traffic traveling from Columbia to Atlanta.

The service compliments Northwests connection between Columbia and Detroit, which attracts fliers heading to the North and overseas, especially Asia, said Tom Bach, vice president of market planning and Airlink, which is Northwests regional services.

Northwest has flown between Columbia and its Detroit hub since October 2003. The success of that service, Flack said, helped his staff make the case for adding flights to and from Memphis.

Those flights have maintained a load factor percentage of seats filled of 70 percent, Bach said. Plus, the service averages three passengers continuing onto Asia each day.

That does wonders for route profitability, Bach said.

Wednesdays announcement did not include pricing information.

The Memphis flights, Flack said, should help cement the airports best year in terms of volume about 1.5 million total passengers.

If the service is popular, Bach said a third flight would be added to Memphis.

Memphis competes with Atlanta, he said. Memphis is a smaller hub, but it operates really well.