Wednesday, April 28, 2010

28 APR 10: The Eagle Has Re-Landed

Maybe all Columbus Airport needed was a name change. Take a "Metro" away, and new airlines seem to come our way....

City officials announced Tuesday Columbus Airport will add a second airline, with two more flights per day. It's actually the return of American Eagle, which left Columbus more than ten years ago. Now that's what I call a long delay in a round-trip flight.

American Eagle is the smaller regional carrier of American Airlines. Flights from Columbus will go to American's hub at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. So don't be surprised if Columbus Airport adds a store selling cowboy hats.

The addition of American Eagle ends years of effort by Columbus Airport to offer something besides Atlantic Southeast's 100-mile shuttle service to Atlanta. Considering ASA had 13 late departures in February with an average delay of 80 minutes, the airport shuttle vans sometimes seem like rocket ships.

Columbus Airport Manager Mark Oropeza said luring a new airline to a city is like attracting a mid-sized business. Considering the airport can't even get a cinnamon roll stand to open there, you can imagine how hard this process was.

Mark Oropeza adds once you fly from Columbus to Dallas-Fort Worth, you can connect to a variety of cities on the West Coast. I expect many St. Francis Hospital employees will fly to Los Angeles -- hoping to get cast in a movie musical based on that YouTube video.

American Eagle will begin flights between Columbus and Dallas-Fort Worth 15 July. But you can book a flight online right now (ahem, please finish reading this blog first) -- and WRBL reported 47 people did it Tuesday afternoon. We hope those Columbus Chamber of Commerce members realized the Texas Rangers won't have a home game until the 22nd.

But as always, the issue for many people is whether they'll save money by flying from Columbus to Dallas-Fort Worth. So we pretended to reserve a round-trip for mid-July online Tuesday night, with a typical Saturday night layover. Trust me from experience - if you have to drive on the L.B.J. Freeway in Dallas, you'll need that Saturday night to recover.

We discovered one surprise in the American Eagle reservation process, which might annoy some travelers. Request a weekday morning flight from Columbus, and you'll be offered a departure time of 4:05 p.m. In fact, that's the only listed departure time - so the "two daily flights" may go side-by-side, like the Blue Angels.

But anyway: our total price with tax for a Columbus-Dallas round-trip was $398. A similar American Airlines flight between Atlanta and Fort Worth would cost you $345.40. Or you can leave Montgomery on American Eagle at three different times of day for $299.40 -- and win even more savings by stopping at Victoryland on your drive home.

Columbus is part of a major expansion of service by American Eagle. Flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Myrtle Beach began earlier this month, and service to Augusta will begin in June. But poor Macon still has no airline service at all - and the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany counts UPS shipments on its flight schedule, as if I should stuff myself in a box.

American Eagle reportedly decided to return to Columbus because of base realignment. Here's hoping those small planes have plenty of cargo space for inflatable rafts and kayaks.

Let's see what other news was flying around Tuesday, in a spring breeze....

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington presented his final city budget proposal. WRBL reports it includes a one-time property tax rollback of about 30 million dollars. This mention of rollbacks has me wondering if the mayor's next job will be door-greeting at Wal-Mart.

+ The Columbus Board of Health voted to increase the fees for inspections of swimming pools and spas. It's either that or... well, you know.... the board might go under financially.

+ WTVM showed a cup-stacking contest by teachers at South Columbus Elementary School. They hopefully took that challenge seriously -- because if the school district has to lay off personnel, jobs could be waiting for them at restaurants.

+ The Georgia House gave final approval to a bill requiring students to study the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Maybe now we'll settle whether you're supposed to pause for a breath between "one nation" and "under God."

+ Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks announced if he's elected Governor, he'll disband the state anti-gambling task force. Considering Sparks's campaign manager resigned last week after a drunk driving arrest, maybe the hot new sin will be alcoholism.

+ Hardaway opened the men's high school soccer playoffs by overwhelming Ola 7-2. Ola?! This was more like "hasta la vista, baby"....

(Evan Scott dominated the game, by scoring six of Hardaway's seven goals. I know three goals in hockey are called a "hat trick" - but saying a high school athlete scored a "six-pack" might give teenagers wrong ideas.)

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