Wichita AirTran Airways, the nation's second-largest low-fare airline carrier, announced Thursday it would begin new nonstop service this spring at Mid-Continent Airport.
The decision comes after area businesses and organizations pledged $4.7 million to attract three low-cost airlines, and comes with a guarantee from the city that it would underwrite the airline's losses the first two years.
Wichita Mayor Bob Knight said the deal means businesses and travelers in south-central Kansas will save an estimated $42.3 million dollars in lower air fares.
"This will open Wichita to new economic development, tourism and much more," he said. "It will do things for our economy that we are not even sure yet."
After years of some of the highest air fares in the nation, city leaders launched in December its Fair Fares Travel Program to raise pledges to lure AirTran Â as well as Frontier Airlines and American Trans Air Â to begin low cost air service to the city.
AirTran, based in Orlando, Fla., is the first low-cost carrier to take Wichita up on its offer. It plans three daily nonstop flights to and from Wichita and Atlanta as well as two daily nonstop flights to and from Wichita and Chicago-Midway Â adding 10 daily flights Mid-Continent Airport.
To supplement the travel bank pledges from south-central Kansas businesses, organizations and communities, the city council also voted to underwrite any monthly losses up to $3 million in 2002 and $1.5 million in 2002.
The city would not have to pay that if AirTran makes a profit or covers its expenses.