Larger, upgraded jets will be available to air travelers at the Joplin Regional Airport beginning next month.
American Eagle, part of American Airlines, will begin using the CRJ-700 in mid-February. The new planes will mean an increased capacity for the daily nonstop flights in and out of the local airport to Dallas.
The current jets seat 46 passengers while the CRJ-700 seats 66, Joplin Regional Airport manager Steve Stockam said last week. He called the step a “natural progression” in an effort to solve the problem of limited availability due to low-capacity flights.
"It’s somewhat of a struggle sometimes to get a flight out of Joplin because there are no seats available. So we’ve been working with American Airlines to either add another flight or more seats somehow.”
Stockam said American Airlines also plans to provide an additional upgrade to a jet called a CRJ-900, which will have a seating capacity of 76, as soon as April. Both the CRJ-700 and CRJ-900 are dual-class aircraft, meaning they will offer both business-class and first-class seating.
“As we go into the summer months — the high-peak travel season — that really provides a good amount of additional seats in and out of Joplin for our customers,” Stockam said.
Stockam also said the airport remains in talks with American about expanding its offerings to include direct flights to Chicago, though no agreement is imminent.
“We will continue to work with American Airlines in trying to establish a Chicago connection,” he said. "We know we have a lot of passengers that want to go on to Chicago and of course go on to the East Coast.”
Manager Steve Stockam said the Joplin Regional Airport will have to spend approximately $30,000 on support equipment such as power supplies and ways to load drinking water in order to service the larger aircraft that will begin serving Joplin this year. He said the Joplin City Council is scheduled to take up a budget adjustment for the airport at its next meeting.