Mid-Continent Airport ushered in a new era of air service today, June 2, with Southwest Airline’s entry into the Wichita market. Southwest’s first flight from Chicago Midway arrived at 1:45 p.m., escorted by airport police, fire, operations and service vehicles to the gate. The plane’s landing set off a celebration inside the terminal and capped a community-wide collaboration over two decades to attract the Southwest brand to the Air Capital of the World.
Regarded as the industry’s standard bearer for customer service and low fares, Southwest Airlines is the nation’s largest domestic carrier, serving more customers domestically than any other airline. It operates more than 3,500 flights a day and serves 97 destinations in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and six near-international countries.
Southwest’s Wichita service means more low fares to more destinations to and from Kansas, said Mayor Brewer: “This is a great day for Wichita. Southwest will open up South Central Kansas and the state of Kansas to the rest of the country because of its vast network and connectivity, increasing tourism and convention opportunities, and it will greatly enhance our economic development efforts.”
Southwest’s initial schedule includes two daily flights to Dallas Love Field, two daily flights to Chicago Midway, and one daily flight to Las Vegas. The Dallas and Chicago routes are served with the 143-seat, Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The Las Vegas route is served with the 137-seat, B737-300 aircraft.
In 2012, Southwest's average passenger airfare was $147.17 one way. Southwest fares can only be found at www.southwest.com
. Southwest does not charge for the first two checked bags, nor does it charge change fees. Southwest’s award-winning frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards®, allows you to earn reward flights faster with unlimited reward seats, no blackout dates, and points that don’t expire.
Southwest Airlines has a reputation of providing friendly customer service, safe and reliable operations, and an extraordinary corporate culture that extends into the communities it serves. Southwest consistently receives the lowest ratio of complaints per passengers boarded of all major U.S. carriers that have been reporting statistics to the Department of Transportation (DOT) since September 1987. Flight completion record was 99 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Southwest has 13 employees in Wichita, 12 of whom have been working at AirTran in Wichita, plus one supervisor who will transfer in from another AirTran station. In addition, Worldwide Flight Services has 32 new employees in Wichita assigned to the Southwest account to perform ground handling services. Southwest also has brought in Gateway One to provide terminal wheelchair services, and Gateway will employ 25 customer service personnel. This is a direct result of Southwest Airlines coming to ICT.
On Sunday, area team mascots greeted the first Southwest passengers and officials held a drawing for two free Southwest Airlines tickets as part of the celebration.
“Southwest brings competition to our market which is needed to keep airfares at affordable levels,” said Director of Airports Victor White. “We know what happens when a low-fare carrier exits the market - fares skyrocket – so it’s very important for Kansans to support Southwest. Southwest will stimulate travel to and from Wichita, supporting all Mid-Continent carriers.”
“This is a great start, and if Southwest is supported by our market, it will grow and add more service,” said Valerie Wise, Air Service & Business Development Manager.