After enduring high airfare and fewer flight options from Delta Airlines, new and cheaper flights are headed to Memphis in the summer through a Southwest Air subsidiary.
AirTran, which is owned by Southwest Airlines, unveiled plans on Monday that will increase its routes in and out of Memphis International Airport.
Starting Aug. 11, passengers will be able to fly nonstop to Chicago (Midway), Orlando, and Baltimore (BWI) from the Bluff City. There will be two daily flights between Memphis and Chicago.
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One-way nonstop tickets on Aug. 11 are starting at $94 to Baltimore, $94 to Orlando and $125 to Chicago.
Hopefully the new route pricing will remain low instead of the highway robbery Delta Airlines has been charging for flights in and out of Memphis.
Memphis International Airport leaders have been trying to lure Southwest Airlines to Memphis for years. Though Southwest took over AirTran two years ago, in essence Southwest is living up to its promise to begin making Memphis more of a focus city.
New Airport Authority Chairman Jack Sammons took over the job in the past month and already his leadership is getting results. But Sammons says Memphians have to play their part.
"That's exciting news for Memphis," he said. "It's a big win, it's a home run in my opinion. But we're just getting started we thing we'll have much more services in years to come if people use it. They told us if you use it we'll give you more flights but our people have got to buy the tickets and got to fly the airline."
You can start booking the nonstops to Chicago Midway, BWI and Orlando immediately, but remember, they won't start until Aug. 11.
If this all seemed to happen quickly, it did. Of course Southwest Air told FOX13 News in September 2012 that they hoped to begin flights sometime by the fall of 2013 out of Memphis. But these new routes came out of a meeting last year between Sammons and Southwest executives.
This is all good news, especially given Pinnacle Airlines' planned headquarters departure for Minneapolis.
Area business leaders are calling the addition of the three new AirTran routes a new era in Memphis aviation as the move will offer new options for Mid-South families and businesses.
"I think this opens up a lot of opportunities for us," said Kevin Kane, CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, who adds that Southwest will offer competitive airfares for those looking to visit the Bluff City.
"The tourist and leisure visitor, they have lots of options, there's lots of cities out there that would love for them to spend their weekends or their vacation time at," Kane said. "So, you know, price sensitivity is something that's very important and of course the Southwest model traditionally makes itself affordable for the leisure traveler."
Tourism and business leaders have been working to get Southwest to Memphis for decades. They say Delta's service cuts at Memphis International opened the door for new carriers to move in.
"Anytime you have competition it's good, it's a good thing," John Moore, CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, who added that more air service in town is good for business. He believes this is just the beginning.
"We have to help them understand how they'll make money here and in that profitable environment how they might be able to expand," Moore said.
The new service gives air travelers more choices and expands air access to the region. The airline is making a significant investment in Memphis.
"It's really important that people support this new service because that support is what will drive growth in the future," Moore added.
One way you can show your support for the new service is to go online and signup for Southwest's Rapid Rewards program Moore said. Your interest in Southwest's rewards program will send a message to the airline about their support in the Mid-South.
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