‘Southwest Effect’ at Ford Airport 1 year later

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It has been nearly a year since Southwest Airlines came to Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

The low-cost carrier’s first flight to the Cascade Township airport landed on Aug. 11, 2013. Since then, Ford Airport has been a regular stop for Southwest.

Before the airline came to town, there was a lot of talk of the “Southwest Effect.” Historically speaking, ticket prices go down, more passengers fly through an airport and new destinations are added when Southwest enters a market.

All of that has happened at Ford Airport.

“Southwest has been great for this market,” Brian Ryks, the Executive Director for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, told 24 Hour News 8.

In the last year, Southwest has delivered to Ford Airport the same things it has to airports around the country, including lower fares.

“That’s reflective of our market and the Southwest impact coming in here and allowing more competition,” Ryks said.

Ryks said in the first quarter that Southwest operated at the airport, fares dropped by 6.1%. In the first quarter of 2014, ticket prices dropped once again, this time by 6.9%.

“Other fares in other markets have been going up,” Ryks said.

Ryks said fares in Detroit during the same quarter increased 4%. In Chicago, that increase is closer to 6%.

“It’s not only the low-cost carrier impact in providing more competition across many more domestic markets, now but it’s also the network carriers adding additional capacity because of the stimulation,” he said.

Ryks said legacy carriers like Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are replacing small 50-seat regional jets with larger planes to accommodate more passengers.

Since Southwest has come to Ford Airport, American Airlines has announced it will start flying to two new cities in September: Charlotte, N.C. and Philadelphia. Both cities will have flights to and from Grand Rapids twice a day.

Additionally, Delta has announced that it will add a fourth daily flight to Atlanta starting in October.

“Southwest has certainly stimulated the market, which is bringing more people to this airport,” Ryks said.

Last year, the airport saw a nearly 5% increase in passenger numbers. So far this year, the number of passengers is up another 5%.

“You bring a brand new carrier into a market and that is always the challenge, to ensure that people will use that carrier and fly that carrier,” Ryks said. “But the response has been very good. They have been very pleased.”

Ryks said he hopes that will lead Southwest to expand its service out of Ford Airport, adding more destinations.

He would not elaborate on which, if any, airlines or destinations the airport was working to add, but did say it is always looking to expand air service in West Michigan.

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