MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It looks like events could finally be aligning for the arrival of Southwest Airlines at Memphis International Airport. The low fares of Southwest Airlines have long been a dream of travelers at Memphis International, a dream blocked by the market dominating presence of Delta Airlines. But, that's changing very rapidly as Delta continues to slash flights and reduce its Memphis hub.
Billy Presley and his daughter drove to Little Rock National Airport to catch a Southwest flight to Dallas and save almost $2,000 off Delta's ticket price from Memphis. "Southwest needs to come to Memphis," Presley said.
They are among thousands of Mid-Southerners who routinely make the more than two-hour drive to the Little Rock Airport, where tickets are often hundreds of dollars cheaper.
But Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins says Southwest's purchase of AirTran, the only low cost airline at Memphis, changes the game.
"Certainly Memphis has been a challenging environment, as you would imagine, with a dominant legacy carrier hubbed in that city," Hawkins said. "We have now a presence for Southwest Airlines to consider in an established market in Memphis, and that certainly does nothing but bolster the ongoing conversation we've been having for a couple of decades with your city."
Hawkins points out that AirTran's four daily flights to Atlanta, where Southwest just set up shop, would allow the airline to connect Memphis passengers to 53 other cities already serviced by Southwest. He told abc24.com, "While we can't say that Southwest is definitely and assuredly coming to Memphis, it has always been a destination that we've been very excited to serve."
So, if Southwest comes to Memphis, when would it happen? As early as this spring, the government is expected to give Southwest and AirTran approval to operate as one airline.
Hawkins said it could take up to two years fully combine the operations, but some locations will be done before others.