The number of fliers using Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport is up since Airtran Airways started flying in May--but at what cost to taxpayers?
The city will pay Airtran $ 732,000 to subsidize its first month of operations here. Even though this dollar amount may seems high it was expected by both the city and the airlline.
According to the city, the cost does have obvious benefits. Wichita fliers have saved $8.3 million with lower air fares since Airtran started flying.
Up until a couple of months ago, most fliers would not land or take off from Wichita. Kansans use to drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma City or Kansas City to catch good air fares. Now travelers from those cities are flying out of Wichita. Nick Bosonetto and his family drove from Tulsa to catch Airtrans flight to Pennsylvania.
This increased travel is what the city was banking on when it made the deal to get airtran to put its wings down in Wichita. Cheap airfares may be costing Wichita, but the city looks at this as an investment.
Wichita spokesmen Mike Taylor says that even if the city "had to pay out the full three million dollars for this first 12 months of the entire year, it's already in the first two months returned itself in the economic benefits to businesses and leisure travelers."
The city's deal with Airtran includes payments up to $4.5 million over the first 2 years of operations to cover any operating shortfalls the carrier might have in starting service here.