There’s a saying that goes something like this, “you have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.” You might add “and how to get there.”
The deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 ushered in several airlines, but very few of them exist today. In fact, since 2000 alone, there have been 17 airline mergers. Fewer airlines have led to less competition and hub closures.
Over the years, our region worked together to bring low-fare carriers to Wichita. Vanguard and Western Pacific served ICT during 1995 – 1997 and passenger traffic increased. Lack of support caused them to leave, causing fares to increase and passenger demand decrease. Then 9/11 hit. Traffic fell to a level lower than before Vanguard and WestPac began.
Low-fare carriers then entered our market starting in May 2002 with AirTran, Frontier (which entered our market three times since 2004), Allegiant, Southwest, and Alaska. AirTran was purchased by Southwest in 2013. Passenger demand is now at all-time highs. As you can see in the charts below, passenger traffic grew 16% between 1981 and 2000, and 43% between 2000 – 2019.
We would not have this kind of growth without low-fare airlines. Southwest offers low-fare service to the east through St. Louis, and to the west through Las Vegas and Phoenix. Although Alaska operates as a network carrier, it is also a low-fare airline that offers reasonable fares. Ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs), Allegiant and Frontier, offer cheap fares and unbundled fees. These airlines keep fares competitive on similar routes.
Project Wichita surveys indicated low airfares and more nonstop destinations as top priorities for our region. Supporting these low-fare carriers will keep fares in check. Increasing travel demand at ICT will enable us to attract more destinations and keep fares competitive. We have a strategy to attract seven new destinations. Your travel decisions matter.
Now you know where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how we can get there.
Valerie Wise, Air Service and Marketing Manager
Wichita Airport Authority