For anyone without access to privation aviation, it just got easier to wing your way into Wichita. You might think the Air Capital of the World would have some of the best connections, well, in the world, but that hasn’t been the case. Our moniker refers to the primarily corporate aircraft we build, not the commercial aircraft we fly.

If you’ve flown commercially into Wichita to pick up a new jet, or do business with one of our many aviation suppliers, you know the challenge firsthand. Southwest Airlines changes that with its new service to Wichita.

Wichita’s first Southwest flight touched down Sunday, June 2. City dignitaries, business leaders and an eager public turned out en masse to celebrate and welcome the long-pursued carrier. Ron Ricks, Southwest Airlines executive vice president, said the Air Capital gave the airline its warmest welcome ever.

Homebound Aircraft

“I flew from Dallas Love Field in a 737,” said Ricks to the Wichita Aero Club. “It pointed its nose into the wind and flew like a homing pigeon returning to Kansas.” He added that major parts of the aircraft were made here in Wichita at Spirit AeroSystems.

Ricks delivered this playful, but frank message: “If you buy, we’ll fly. If you don’t, we won’t.” I get it. And think Wichita will, too. Southwest cultivates a let’s-have-a-laugh culture, but it didn’t become one of the world’s largest airlines – and the only current major U.S. carrier to avoid bankruptcy and bailouts – by being soft about business.

A Knack for What Works

We could all learn from Southwest. It’s grown steadily, achieving profitability for 40 consecutive years. Which is even more impressive when you consider that every other major carrier struggled through long stretches of those same decades. Southwest had one bad quarter in 2008 – and who didn’t? – but still managed to clear a profit that year. It carries bags for free while other carriers have tried to turn that into a profit center.

The company knows how to make money, yet still pay above-average salaries, hold to a no-layoff philosophy and consistently rank at the top of customer-service surveys.

Building Sufficient and Sustainable Traffic

Ricks’ straightforward talk about getting out of markets that don’t pay off is no idle warning. It’s how Southwest does business. “Cut up those (legacy frequent flyer) cards,” he urged the room full of business travelers whose pockets and purses no doubt contained at least one each.

We’re confident Wichita will give Southwest plenty of business. You can help us out. Next time your business brings you to the Air Capital, throw Southwest into your mix of travel options. It won’t be a hardship.

Lower Airfares, More Options

Where Wichita’s former low-fare carrier, Air Tran, had 180 possible connections; Southwest gives Wichita 550. Ricks’ closed with this thought, so I will, too: “Here’s to blue skies and cheap jet fuels and lots of future Wichita flights.”

* Pictured at the top of the story, Southwest Airlines EVP Ron Ricks says Wichita wowed the carrier so much with its passion and perseverance, it moved into the market. Photo courtesy of Ricardo Reitmeyer.