Mixed message on Southwest subsidies

Now that Southwest Airlines has announced that it will offer service in Wichita, the question is this: Will Southwest tap the subsidy?

Last year city manager Bob Layton said he feels “pretty good” about Wichita’s chances in receiving service from the popular discount airline. He said that we need to keep the Affordable Airfares Program to keep Southwest interested in Wichita. But later he said “The Southwest business model doesn’t require subsidies over a long period of time.”

A mixed message.

From the Wichita Eagle: “[Southwest vice president for airport affairs Bob] Montgomery said Southwest may initially utilize Affordable Airfares revenue to mitigate ‘risk’ but hopes to grow its business so the public subsidies aren’t needed.”

Mixed.

“[Kansas Governor Sam] Brownback also committed during the news conference to recommending the extension of Affordable Airfares during the 2013 legislative session, calling its potential role helping defray Southwest’s risk entering the Wichita market appropriate. ‘The program is doing what we want,’ the governor said. ‘It’s a good program, and I’m going to propose continuing it.’”

Mixed message again. Especially so for a governor who is being praised for his free market beliefs. Or, as in Forbes: “Sam Brownback is a dazzlingly Reaganesque success as governor of Kansas.”

The Southwest executive again: “But Montgomery said the fate of Affordable Airfares will have no bearing on Southwest’s future in Wichita. ‘We are here with no conditions, no demands,’ he said. ‘We ask that y’all fly Southwest, because this is a tough business.’”

Mixed.

Southwest has started service in cities comparable to Wichita without government subsidy or with only small levels of assistance. Let’s hope our city and state leaders can do the same.


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