Subsidies for Wichita airport appear to be working

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Click to view an Evaluation of the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program by the University of Kansas.

WICHITA, Kansas – Every year, the state, Sedgwick County and Wichita shell out a total of
$6.5 million to keep an airline flying out of Wichita, first Airtran, and now Southwest.

KSN has learned that Southwest is losing millions on two out of its three routes out of Wichita. KSN’s Craig Andres has been asking city officials if the fair fares program is worth the millions in taxpayers money.

“We’re not from Wichita. We actually came in visiting but it seems important to Wichita,” said Southwest flyer Gary Nesbit on Thursday. “We certainly got here easy. We made a last minute switch to southwest.”

We asked city council members and county commissioners if Southwest will be here for the long-term. Officials say that Southwest has already claimed two spots at the new terminal that is currently under construction. They say that’s an indication the airline is here to stay.

So, does the fair fares program save money for those flying out of Wichita?

Yes, but it depends on who you ask.

All the facts do show that the goal of the fair fares program, reducing the cost of airfares out of Wichita, has been successful since 2001.

Sedgwick County’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Chronis says the fair fares program keeps fares down, on average, $172 for each ticket.

“This is a county contract,” says Chronis. “About $5 Million comes from the state and the rest from the city and county equally. But when you get down to it, that savings of $172 a ticket means a lot.”

Chronis says Wichita flyers save about $100 Million on those ticket prices.

“Look at it this way, “says Chronis. “Before we had a low cost carrier, what was the motivation for other carriers to keep prices down? Competition is a good thing, and low cost carriers certainly help.”

KSN asked city council member James Clendenin if the fair fares program would continue.

“Well, I’ll tell you this,” explains Clendenin. “We just got numbers today at the regional economic outlook conference that shows that (the) Wichita airport is outperforming Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Tulsa, and that’s because we have this program available.”

Chronis explains that Wichita is performing better on two factors. The first factor is the rate of reduction in fares out of Wichita. The second factor is the rate of overall growth of passengers.

“We do have people that are no longer flying out of Kansas City to get cheaper fares,” says Chronis. “And in some cases, the K.C. flyers are coming here.”

 

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