Charleston, S.C. Welcomes Southwest AirlinesFor Immediate Release, May 2010
Southwest Airlines announced it will begin service at both Charleston and Greenville International Airports within the next twelve months. According to a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, the local Air Service Team’s collaborative efforts presented a compelling case for bringing low-cost air service to Charleston. Comprised of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, Charleston Regional Development Alliance, Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Air Service Team hosted airline officials during site visits and worked with legislators on air service incentive funding measures.
“This is a wonderful day for the citizens of the Charleston area,” says Teddie Pryor, Sr., chairman of Charleston County Council. “Having a low-cost carrier is a quality of life issue, and it will benefit our residents every bit as much as it does the business community.”
The addition of Southwest is a “major step forward for our entire region” according to David Jennings, chairman of the Charleston County Aviation Authority. “Gaining service from an airline with the reputation and track record of Southwest speaks volumes about the current and future potential of the Charleston market,” says Jennings. “Charleston fits well both geographically and strategically into Southwest's future. It fills a big void in their southern network, which is currently empty from Raleigh to Jacksonville.”
Speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives Bobby Harrell, who was instrumental in the statewide effort to lure low-cost air service, anticipates a positive and immediate increase in statewide economic development activity. “The lack of a low-cost carrier has been one of our biggest challenges in attracting new investment and high-quality jobs to South Carolina,” says Harrell. “Telling prospects that our state is served by Southwest will be very well received.” The economic impact of one low cost carrier in the Charleston market is estimated at $139 million annually.
Southwest’s arrival is heralded as a boon to the local tourism economy according to Helen Hill, Executive Director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The number one challenge we face in attracting meetings and conventions to the Charleston area has been the lack of flights and the high cost of airfare,” says Hill. “Having Southwest enter our market will not only have a moderating effect on airfares across the board, it will open up more seats to more places, which benefits everyone.”
Southwest is estimated to bring 200,000 additional passengers to the Charleston area annually, which Hill forecasts as a positive influence on the area’s $2.8 billion tourism industry. “Southwest Airlines has built its stellar reputation by providing exceptional customer service— something we in the Charleston hospitality industry appreciate!” says Hill.
Air consultant Joel Antolini of Seabury APG was contracted by the Charleston Air Service team to assess and strengthen the local market’s competitive edge. “This is the type of thing you can pull off when you're working with a creative, energetic, 'can-do' community,” says Antolini. “In a refreshing and upbeat way, failing to bring Southwest to Charleston was never an option for this positive-minded group.”
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