Southwest helps celebrate AirTran’s 10 years in Wichita

A Southwest Airlines official said Tuesday that AirTran’s 10 years in Wichita represent “a legacy of success” and Southwest is excited to build on it.

Ryan Green, senior director of marketing for Southwest, was at Mid-Continent Airport for an event celebrating AirTran’s decade of service here. The event included cake, soda and other amenities that AirTran was providing to its passengers at the gate.

Southwest completed its $3.4 billion acquisition of AirTran last year.

In February, Southwest confirmed it would continue operating in Wichita after the transition from AirTran to Southwest was complete.

City and county officials said that since AirTran’s arrival, airfares to the city’s top eastern destinations decreased by 25 percent and traffic to them increased by 60 percent.

“This has been the best investment of our public dollars,” Mayor Carl Brewer said at the event. Brewer was speaking of the state’s affordable airfares program — $5 million of which is funded annually from the state along with $1 million each from the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County — that has subsidized AirTran’s service in Wichita.

It’s unclear if Southwest will tap into those subsidies, though Gov. Sam Brownback and other government and business leaders who met with Southwest CEO Gary Kelly have said it was important that Southwest have access to such a program.

Green, of Southwest, offered little new information about Southwest’s plans for the Wichita market, such as destinations and frequency of flights.

He said those details are still being worked out at the company’s headquarters in Dallas.

“We’re just excited to build on that momentum,” he said in an interview after the event.

AirTran is expected to transition to Southwest, and take its name, in Wichita sometime next year.

“We should have an announcement in the near future,” Green said.