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Archive for Sunday, April 25, 2004

Wichita has flight plan for AirTran

April 25, 2004

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— AirTran Airways could get a one-year extension of financial assistance from the city of Wichita if it adds two flights a day from the city's airport.

Wichita officials made the offer last week. It stipulates that the discount airline add one flight going east and one going west. Mayor Carlos Mayans said the offer also requires that AirTran use larger jets that would double current seating capacity.

AirTran had already been planning to phase out regional jets and replace them with larger aircraft.

The carrier's current two-year contract with the city, which expires May 8, guaranteed $4.5 million to underwrite operating costs in its first two years of service. AirTran has billed the city for all but $500,000 of the guarantee through February. City officials and AirTran representatives have been trying to negotiate a new contract for several weeks.

Mayans has been trying to get Sedgwick County to contribute to the extended subsidy. He said if the county declined, it would not jeopardize the offer to AirTran, but it would deepen the city's budget concerns.

AirTran began flight service from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in May 2002, and operates three daily flights to Atlanta. Before its arrival, fares from Wichita were among the most expensive in the country.

Airport officials say that Wichita travelers have saved nearly $75 million on airfares since AirTran arrived.

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