MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - There's finally a break in the high cost of flying out of Memphis, and you can call it the "Southwest Effect."
AirTran, which is owned by Southwest, announced plans Monday to start service this summer from Memphis to three new destinations. The direct flights offered to Chicago, Baltimore/Washington and Orlando begin August 11, 2013.
Waiting for his ground transportation at Memphis International Airport, Brian Piper says, "I don't come here very often, no. It's challenging to get here." Instead of flying from Kansas City, Piper often opts for the seven hour drive for his business trips. This flight cost him $830 and it had a layover in Atlanta.
Piper's exhaustion is echoed by travelers flying in and out of the Bluff City. Jimmy Chandler, a business traveler out of Memphis says, to get anywhere, "We have to fly through Atlanta or Detroit or another city."
Tracy Arnett's personal travel is even affected, "I have to go to Little Rock or Nashville to get a flight on Southwest." Not any more. The airport's president, Larry Cox announced, "Southwest Airlines has notified us that they're going to begin new air service out of Memphis." Cox says the airport's been working on bringing the low cost carrier to Memphis for more than 20 years.
Jack Sammons, the Chairman of the Airport Authority says, "I feel great, I feel like we won the Super Bowl."
Travelers are already seeing the benefit. Flights from Memphis to Chicago the first weekend in August start at $448. Once the AirTran flight is operating, just two weeks later, flights, even from Delta, drop to $254. "Memphis has chased this gal for a long time to get her to the dance." Sammons says, "Southwest is coming and we welcome her with wide open arms."
A reduction in flights from Delta over the last few months has paved the opening for Southwest. But, the airline can add or remove flights at any time. Cox says if travelers want this airline to stay, and expand, they need to book flights, "They made it very clear to us, if people don't fly on the planes and make a profit they'll look elsewhere."
Southwest is the first airline to take advantage of Memphis International's new incentive program that was put in place in the summer of 2012. The airport will offer rental credits for landing and terminal fees. If Southwest markets the direct flights in Memphis, or any of the destination cities, the airport will pay half the cost.