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Southwest Airlines coming to RIC

The wait is over: Southwest Airlines is coming to Richmond International Airport.

Southwest and its subsidiary, AirTran Airways, announced today that existing AirTran operations at 22 domestic and international airports – including Richmond – will be converted to Southwest during the coming months. Southwest purchased AirTran in May 2011 and began evaluating the markets it served to determine which ones would convert to Southwest after the merger.

The announcement is good news for the Richmond region, which has sought Southwest's entry for years. The airline flies to a larger number of markets than AirTran or Richmond's other low-cost carrier, JetBlue. Its arrival is viewed as a major victory for the region, because it will help keep rates of other airlines lower while providing better access to and from the region nationwide.

"It remains critically important that our travelers and businesses continue to purchase and travel aboard all airlines that provide service from Richmond International Airport," RIC spokesman Troy Bell said in a statement, "notably including low-cost carriers like AirTran as it transitions to Southwest. Every ticket counts."

In addition to Richmond, the other airports at which AirTran service will be converted to Southwest service are: Flint, Mich.; Rochester, N.Y.; Pensacola, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Dayton, Oh.; Key West, Fla.; Washington, D.C. (Reagan); Memphis, Tenn.; Akron-Canton, Oh.; Wichita, Ks.; Des Moines, Ia.; Branson, Mo.; Portland, Me.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Cancun, Mexico; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Aruba; San Juan, P.R.; Bermuda; and Nassau, Bahamas.

AirTran service and employees at these airports are planned to convert to Southwest gradually during the course of AirTran’s integration into Southwest. The airlines earlier
announced that AirTran will begin serving Mexico City, Mexico on May 24 and San Jose Cabo, Mexico on June 3. Those destinations also will convert to Southwest over time.

Of the 69 cities AirTran served when Southwest acquired it last year, 53 cities are planned to convert to full Southwest Airlines service.

“We are committed to continuing to serve these communities—at first via AirTran, and eventually as Southwest. We know there are Southwest Customers who want access to these cities, but have never before had the opportunity, and the markets have long desired
Southwest service,” said Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer and AirTran Airways President Bob Jordan. “We are excited about the cities we have chosen to keep in our combined network. At the same time, there are some markets that
we simply cannot make work in the current fuel environment, so we’ve had to make the decision to discontinue service in those locations.”

AirTran will cease operations at six airports Aug. 12: Allentown, Pa.; Lexington, Ky.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Sarasota, Fla.; Huntsville, Ala.; and White Plains, N.Y.

As of Aug. 12, Southwest will offer 41 flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the first jointly served airport to fully convert to Southwest Airlines service. AirTran currently serves the market with one daily flight from Seattle to Milwaukee and seasonal service to both Atlanta and Baltimore/Washington.
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Film industry training program planned for this weekend

The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), in partnership with the Virginia Film Office, will offer "Get Your Start in the Film Industry," a two-day seminar designed to prepare workers for film, television and commercial projects in Virginia. The course will be held Oct. 4-5 at the Workforce Development and Conference Center, 1651 Parham Road in Henrico, on the campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

The training will be taught by Gary Romolo Fiorelli, an accomplished assistant director for film and television projects, which include the television series Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s current drama Mistresses. > Read more.

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

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