AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson met with executives and leaders from Southwest Airlines on Thursday to discuss the need for more flights to and from Amarillo.
Mayor Nelson said SWA executives have met with Amarillo leaders multiple times since they started growing this relationship over the past few years.
On Thursday, Mayor Nelson was joined by the airport director, representatives from the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. Local business owners were also there to share their perspectives.
“This meeting is a continuation of really years worth of work in building the relationship with Southwest Airlines,” said Mayor Nelson. “And it is a great example of collaboration in our community all for the benefit of getting more flights and different time schedules coming in and out of Amarillo.”
As Southwest introduces a nonstop daily flight to Austin in the Spring, Amarillo leaders are pushing for more.
Nelson said the airline is listening and has made adjustments.
“Lots of our major employers over the last three years have come to these meetings and been involved in saying, ‘Here’s what our business demands. And it would help us we would use it if you would provide this flight.’ That voice, all of us together as one community, has made an impact in these conversations,” she said. “And we need to continue building those collaborations and using them for better quality of life here in Amarillo.”
President and CEO of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, Kevin Carter, said the relationship with the airline provides more opportunities to both business and leisure travelers and could create a positive economic impact.
“I don’t know what the dollar figure would be. But it will help us in recruiting to be able to say, ‘Hey, we have we have direct flights now to another city,'” said Carter. “That makes a difference when you’re going to recruit companies whether that’s on the West Coast or the East Coast, it just gives us another option for air traffic to come through.”
The pandemic is not yet over, but Southwest has already invested time and money into its new nonstop Austin flights to and from Amarillo. The airline will have to continue to factor coronavirus into its new flight plans.
“They are expecting us to exceed our pre-COVID numbers by March of 2022 with air traffic with them and so that’s incredible. And so we’re ahead of a lot of their markets,” said Carter. “I just think it speaks to that, that we’re in growth mode and not recovery mode.”
Mayor Nelson said these talks are opening the door for Amarillo, even to conversations with other airlines.
“They see that we’re working hard to be a good customer and to bring more services to our citizens,” she added. “And as a business owner, they want to be a part of that and other airlines are seeing that too. So competition is a good thing.”
She said she hopes to see a nonstop flight from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport return, and they are also working to get a flight to Denver.
“I would hope that our direct Houston flight might be a possibility again. I mean, we have to chalk that loss up to COVID. But very excited about the direct Austin flight,” Mayor Nelson said. “If we will get behind it as a community and use these direct flights that they’re giving us an opportunity for, I think it will continue to open the door for more conversations and more flights.”