From personal experience I know that residents of Wichita, Kan., particularly business people, have been wishing and hoping and praying for Southwest Airlines to serve the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the known universe for a very, very long time.
It's finally going to happen.
Southwest announced at a press conference Monday that beginning in June it will operate five departures daily out of Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The routes will include two to Dallas Love Field, two to Chicago Midway and one to Las Vegas. The Wichita Eagle has the story.
“Folks, the wait is over,” said Bob Montgomery, Southwest’s vice president for airport affairs, during the news conference, which included state and local dignitaries.
The five flights will utilize 143-seat Boeing 737s to Dallas and Chicago, Southwest officials said, and a 137-seat 737 to Las Vegas. One-way rates will range between $94 and $178 to each destination.
The addition of Southwest is a boon to the city’s economic development and tourism efforts, Mayor Carl Brewer and Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Tim Norton said following the announcement.
“As far back as 1980, when I moved here with Target, affordable, dependable air service has been a need of this community,” Norton said. “We’ve had air service, but when I flew to Denver years ago and the cost was so prohibitive that we drove to Kansas City to fly, that’s a dynamic we knew we had to change.
“And in talking with Pizza Hut, Rent-A-Center, the companies that left here, part of the conversation was that airfares are too high here for companies that travel a lot. Fast forward to today, and a dependable, affordable carrier that changes the dynamic of our air travel, our businesses and certainly our community.”
Wichita has long been a spoke in a number of airlines systems and leisure travelers booking well in advance could get pretty good fares most of the time. But for business people travelling on short notice the fares were typicaly very high, a situation that has only gotten worse with airline economics and mergers. A 21-day advance purchase round trip fare on American Airlines from Wichita to Dallas-Fort Worth is $629.60 today
Southwest officials indicated they may initially take advantage of subsidies that Wichita and the state of Kansas had get low cost Air Tran service to Atlanta, which is going away. But they also said there Wichita routes would not be based on receiving a subsidy.
“We are here with no conditions, no demands," Montgomery said. “We ask that y’all fly Southwest, because this is a tough business.”