The partnership between United Airlines and Columbia Regional Airport kicked off Tuesday afternoon as passengers took the first United flight to Chicago.
Beginning Tuesday, United is the second airline to service Columbia in addition to American Airlines. United will offer twice-daily flights to and from Chicago O'Hare International Airport and a daily flight to and from Denver International Airport.
This is the first time United has flown from Columbia, said Steven Sapp, community relations director for the city of Columbia.
Thirty-seven passengers boarded the 50-seat flight Tuesday afternoon, according to Michael Parks, Columbia's airport manager.
Barbara Burnett, a passenger from Jefferson City on Tuesday's flight, said she was going to Chicago as a stop to Denver rather than taking the 6 a.m. non-stop flight the next morning. But she plans to take the direct flight back to Columbia at the end of her trip next Thursday.
"I will be enjoying the service then," Burnett said, laughing.
Her husband, John Burnett, said he hoped the new flights would be as popular as they are convenient.
"It'll be interesting to see what next year's statistics will be with the addition of the airline," John Burnett said. "This may work out better" than driving to Kansas City or St. Louis.
With the addition of the Denver flight, Columbia passengers will be able to fly to three of the top five mega-hub airports in the country. Denver was one of the top requested destinations out of Columbia, according to a news release from the city.
"United's new service between Columbia and Denver International Airport offers United customers a much wider array of domestic and international travel options," said Andrew Bell, United's manager of sales in Missouri.
American Airlines had already been taking passengers on daily flights to and from Chicago O'Hare and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport since February 2013.
Lisa Bright, vacation manager for Adelman Travel Group, told the Missourian it has been difficult to book flights to Chicago because of high demand. With the advent of United's flights, the number of daily flights to Chicago has doubled from two to four.