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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

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.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

New Italian restaurant opens in Short Pump

Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.

Henrico native to appear on Travel Channel show


A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”

The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.

The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.

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