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Archive for Thursday, March 7, 2002

Regional air taxi and charter bus service being explored

March 7, 2002

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— Wichita city officials are exploring the possibility of setting up air taxi or charter bus service between Wichita Mid-Continent Airport and airports in Garden City and Salina.

The move comes as the city tries to attract low-cost carriers and keep fliers from taking their business to Denver, Kansas City, Mo., or Amarillo, Tex.

Wichita already has landed AirTran Airways, which begins service to the city's airport on May 8.

The company added Wichita to its flights after area businesses and organizations pledged $4.7 million of their travel budgets to attract low-cost carriers. The city sweetened the deal by also offering AirTran a guarantee that it would underwrite the airline's losses the first two years, and kick in $600,000 to market the flights.

Wichita officials are also trying to attract Frontier Airlines to Mid-Continent.

Wichita is on the list of potential candidates for the carrier, and has had some initial discussions with the city, said Mickey Bowman, director for pricing and revenue management for Frontier Express.

It's too early for the company to have an opinion one way or the other, but the pledges and incentives package offered to AirTran have gotten Frontier's attention, he said.

"That does come into play when we look at our bottom- line numbers," he said.

The city hopes to start negotiations with Frontier in early to mid- summer, said Fair Fares campaign manager David Ulrich. If successful, the goal is to begin service to Denver and beyond this fall.

Bob Halloran, city manager of Garden City, said he plans to meet with Ulrich and director of airports Bailis Bell next week to hear about a proposal for a shuttle between Garden City and Mid-Continent.

If it's designed to bolster travel on AirTran for service to the east, Halloran said the airport might be interested  even though Garden City already has air connections to Kansas City.

But he said the airport has less interest for travel on Frontier because Garden City's airport already has connections to Denver.

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