Southwest Airlines has committed to serve Wichita according to local and state leaders who met with the airline late last week.
“We are pleased to announce that Southwest Airlines has agreed to serve Mid-Continent Airport,” stated Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. “Wichita has been anxiously waiting to hear what the future plans were with regard to Southwest Airlines and we are thrilled with this news.”
Last week, a small delegation of elected officials and business leaders traveled to Dallas to meet with high-level officials at Southwest Airlines.
The delegation was comprised of the following officials:
--Gov. Sam Brownback --U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran --Mayor Carl Brewer --Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh --Lynn Nichols, immediate past chairman, Wichita Metro Chamber --Jeff Turner, president and CEO, Spirit AeroSystems --Jack Pelton, retired chairman and CEO, Cessna Aircraft Company --Victor White, director of airports, Wichita Airport Authority
“This is exciting news for Wichita and south central Kansas. Quality commercial air service is key to economic growth,” Brownback said. “My administration looks forward to working with leaders of Wichita, Sedgwick County and Southwest Airlines leaders to finalize this partnership. We thank Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO, Southwest Airlines, and his leadership team for their commitment of this process and look forward to the arrival of Southwest Airlines in Kansas.”
“As you know, Southwest Airlines acquired Air Tran in 2011 and is currently in the process of integrating Air Tran into their company,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh. “Officials at Southwest Airlines informed us service will continue in Kansas under the Air Tran name until 2013 and then a transition to Southwest Airlines will occur.”
“Southwest Airlines did request the continuation of the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program,” said Lynn Nichols, immediate past chair, Wichita Metro Chamber.
The delegation said Southwest Airlines made it clear that this is a critical component for them to enter this market. The Kansas Affordable Airfares Program, a city, county and state effort, has been in place for the past six years with a positive return on investment. The purpose of the program helps provide more air flight options, more competition for air travel and affordable airfares for all Kansans. At the state level, affordable airfares is funded by the state’s Economic Development Initiatives Fund and is included in the Governor’s recommended Fiscal Year 2013 budget as a key component of the Governor’s economic development strategic plan.
“Not only has this program been successful for the leisure traveler, it is a vital piece for recruiting and retaining business,” said Lynn Nichols, recent chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber. “Having affordable flights and many flight choices is essential for keeping the cost of business competitive. We appreciate the continued support of this program from the Kansas Legislature, the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County.”
“Today’s announcement is wonderful news for Kansas,” Moran said. “As a resident of western Kansas, I know firsthand the importance of maintaining commercial air service in communities across Kansas. I thank Southwest Airlines for their decision to not only maintain air service at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport via Air Tran, but also eventually fully switch over to Southwest Airlines, which will contribute significantly to Kansans’ quality of life and our state’s economic future. I look forward to Kansas continuing to build a fruitful relationship with Southwest Airlines, and I look forward to flying Southwest out of Wichita very soon.”
The delegation said Southwest is currently preparing a comprehensive plan that includes an analysis of potential routes to and from Wichita, and an announcement from Southwest will come later when that market study of opportunities is completed.