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.
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