Southwest Airlines has announced plans to begin flights in June from Wichita-Mid-Continent Airport, saying the fate of government subsidies given to its predecessor will have no bearing on its own future in Wichita.
"We are here with no conditions, no demands," Bob Montgomery, the company's vice president for airport affairs, said Monday. "We ask that y'all fly Southwest, because this is a tough business."
The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/QsxMwy) reports that state and local governments have been subsidizing Air Tran's operations out of Mid-Continent. Southwest bought Air Tran in 2011. The Affordable Airfares subsidies were designed to lower the cost of air travel to Wichita.
Montgomery said the airline may initially use public subsidies but hopes business grows so they aren't needed.
The carrier said it plans to have two daily flights from Wichita to Dallas Love Field, along with two daily flights to Chicago Midway Airport. It also plans one daily flight to Las Vegas.
Wichita officials welcomed the announcement as a boon to the city's economic development and tourism efforts.
Southwest plans to use a 143-seat Boeing 737 for its Dallas and Chicago flights and a 127-seat 737 for the Las Vegas flights. One-way rates are expected to range between $94 and $178.
Gov. Sam Brownback called Southwest's announcement crucial to economic development and retention in the Wichita area.
"It's a great benefit to the people of Kansas to be able to travel the country at competitive rates," the governor said.
Brownback said he would recommend that the Legislature extend the program during its session next year, citing the potential role in helping defray Southwest's risk appropriate.
"The program is doing what we want," Brownback said. "It's a good program, and I'm going to propose continuing it."