HEBRON, Ky. - Southwest Airlines will open its new service at CVG with five daily roundtrips to Chicago Midway and three to Baltimore/Washington beginning June 4, officials said Wednesday afternoon.
The highly-regarded low-cost airline, long targeted by airport officials, announced it is coming to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky only a few hours after giving word that it is pulling out of Dayton International in June.
Southwest is thrilled to bring its popular combination of low fares and high service to the Tri-State, said Dave Harvey, Southwest managing director of business development.
"There are others that are low-fares, low-service, but the trick is to do both," Harvey said.
Flying on Southwest means Boeing 737s instead of regional jets, two bags free and no change fees, Harvey said. Reward programs have no blackout dates or seat restrictions.
"Southwest is not in the business of nickel-and-diming people," Harvey said.
Harvey said he realizes Tri-Staters are anxious for more routes, especially to Florida and the West Coast.
"Let's make sure these first flights are successful and keep it rolling," he said.
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Flights can be booked at Southwest.com starting Thursday morning, Harvey said.
The move to CVG was announced at a 3 p.m. news conference at the airport. Local political and business leaders hailed it as a "win" for economic development on both sides of the river.
WATCH the 20-minute news conference here:
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley credited an all-in regional effort for landing Southwest.
"This has been an incredible bi-partisan, bi-state, multiple jurisdiction, multiple government, regional effort, and everyone put the region first," Cranley said.
The strength of the Greater Cincinnati economy was a game changer for Southwest, according to Scott Farmer of the Cincinnati Business Committee.
"Last year our region was identified as having the fastest growing economy in the Midwest," Farmer said.
But Harvey said the key was the strong corporate community.
"There’s a lot of big companies like your Krogers, your Macy’s, P&G’s. We’re able to work directly with those firms to establish some travel arrangements that are really going to help us get off the ground quickly," Harvey said.
Mike Schlotman, Airport Board chair, said the announcement is a big step in the airport's resurgence since losing its Delta hub.
CVG added 12 roundtrips last year, and fares continue to decrease, he said, noting that the average CVG fare, highest in the country a short while ago, has dropped to 40th.
"Passengers are paying about $150 a ticket less than two years ago," Schlotman said.
Southwest didn't say how many people it will employ at CVG, but it had about 35 to 40 in Dayton.
The addition of Southwest, following lower-cost Frontier and Allegiant last year, should continue to boost CVG as it regains its footing in the regional airport marketplace. CVG, meanwhile, has become one of the leading cargo airports in North America through its DHL worldwide hub.
CVG served nearly 6.8 million passengers in 2016, an 8 percent increase over 2015, Schlotman said
CVG reported its 27th straight month of local passenger growth in November. Year-over-year local passenger volume grew 15.6 percent and exceeded 500,000 passengers, making it the strongest November for local passenger volume since 2001, the airport said. Total passenger volume, which includes connecting passengers, was also up 10.3 percent, making November the 19th consecutive month for total airport growth and the best overall November since 2010.
“We continue to see fantastic results in passenger growth at CVG, due in large part to lower fares and the steady expansion of air service options,” said CEO Candace McGraw.
Southwest will continue to operate three daily flights between Dayton and Chicago Midway until June 3.