Southwest Airlines begins Wichita service

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WICHITA, Kansas – After years of waiting and planning, “luv” is finally in the air at Mid-Continent Airport.

Southwest Airlines launched service from Wichita’s airport Sunday, throwing a party for passengers.

“Look at this party I came back to, it’s awesome!” said Kayli Hilton, a Wichita native who came back from a cruise. “I can’t imagine flying with anyone else.”

Many passengers are glad they no longer have to drive several hours for Southwest service.

“I used to have to fly into Tulsa, and then drive up, adding an extra few hours onto the travel day, and having a 2 and 4 year old, it’s nice to be able to fly straight in and save time with the kids,” said Brad Wingfield, who was flying in to visit family.

“I just rolled on up and got out of the car,” Molly Nespor added while waiting for her flight to Boston. “It’s going to be faster than driving to Kansas City, and I’m really looking forward to that.”

Before today, passengers would repeatedly ask city officials the same question.

“‘When are we going to get Southwest?’ And for the past 20 years, all the elected officials, even before me, would say ‘We’re working on it,'” Mayor Carl Brewer said. “So with persistence, hard work, and these are our benefits by doing that.”

Southwest will operate non-stop flights to Chicago Midway airport, Dallas Love Field, and Las Vegas, luring customers with low fares and no bag or change fees. The flights replace the AirTran service to Atlanta, which concluded Saturday.

The new service allows for up to 550 possible itineraries, more than tripling the 180 itineraries offered when it was only operating the AirTran flights to Atlanta, according to Ron Ricks, executive vice president of Southwest Airlines.

“They had some good prices on their flights and go to a lot of different locations so that’s pretty exciting to be able to have a lower fare price going to multiple locations across the United States,” Mark Gagnon said after traveling from Orlando.

Southwest officials say they are looking forward to serving the Air Capital.

“What [customers] can do is fly on an airline that is the most financially stable in America, has the best employees, the best customer service record according to the US Department of Transportation, and has the best future awaiting it down the road,” Ricks said.

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