People flying out of the airport in Grand Rapids will soon have more options and cheaper flights.
On Monday Southwest Airlines, the “world’s largest low-fare air service provider,” announced flights out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport will begin in August.
Southwest Airlines will double the current flight schedule run by AirTran Airways. Southwest acquired AirTran in 2011. It will also provide bigger airplanes, adding up to an 83 percent increase in “seat count” over AirTran’s daily average.
Ford International Airport Executive Director Brian Ryks says between 30 and 40 percent of the 2.7 million people in the airport’s “service area” drive to Detroit or Chicago to fly.
“By being more competitive, by offering them more options, we should be able to capture more of that share,” Ryks said.
To help accommodate Southwest, Ryks says the airport just completed a $4.9 million concourse upgrade.
Amway heir Dick DeVos and an alliance of business leaders he formed in support of the airport, the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, helped secure the new service.
“Southwest’s expanded service to Gerald R. Ford International Airport is more great news for our region’s economy,” DeVos said. Ryks and DeVos believe strong support from regional businesses will spur more growth for the airport.
“The next steps will really be up to us,” DeVos said. “If we actually take advantage of it and use this to expand both our leisure and our economic activity in West Michigan, I hope this is the beginning of many more announcements like this.”