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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

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

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