Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2003

Weak traffic may cause AirTran to depart Wichita

March 20, 2003


— AirTran may be forced to leave Wichita once its subsidies run out if the economy doesn't pick up, the air carrier's president said Tuesday.

"I would say right now the revenue base in Wichita is not strong enough" to support its current level of air service, said Robert Fornaro, president of the Orlando, Fla.,-based airline.

AirTran started Wichita service last June as the city's first low-fare air carrier since Vanguard left in 1997. Lured in part by $4.5 million in city subsidies for its first two years, the carrier has spurred a dramatic increase in traffic out of Mid-Continent Airport at a time when flying nationwide has dropped.

As other airlines went bankrupt in 2002, AirTran was one of only three airlines to report a profit, as it expanded the number of cities it served.

But Fornaro said some of those cities, including Wichita, are providing weak revenues. AirTran already eliminated its twice-daily Wichita-Chicago flights in February.

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