Southwest Airlines coming to Charleston, Greenville

Staff Report
Published May 11, 2010

After weeks of speculation and political wrangling over incentives across South Carolina, Southwest Airlines announced today that it intends to fly out of Charleston International Airport and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport starting next year.

At a news conference called for noon and then pushed to 2 p.m., airport officials were expected to announce that five months after discount air carrier AirTran departed Charleston for the last time, it has a new low-cost carrier.

Southwest Airlines coming to Charleston, Greenville Southwest posted a news release on its website at 2 p.m. confirming the decision.

"We look forward to serving the Palmetto State with Southwest Airlines' unique brand of genuine hospitality, great value, a robust and reliable flight network, and our terrific employees who deliver excellent customer service," said Dave Ridley, Southwest's senior vice president of marketing and revenue management.

Speculation over Southwest coming to Greenville-Spartanburg and Charleston but not Columbia sparked a political feud in the Statehouse over millions of dollars in incentives for any air carrier.

State lawmakers have been saying for weeks that Southwest was interested in starting service from Charleston and Greenville-Spartanburg.

Southwest officials even visited Columbia to support the bill that would provide up to $15 million in incentives for airlines. Because they were feeling overlooked by Southwest, Midlands lawmakers held up passage of the bill. As the legislative session nears an end, a compromise appeared to be in the works.

“The bottom line is that lack of a low-cost airline has really put our community at a competitive disadvantage for business development, business expansion and tourism,” said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The bill includes $15 million borrowed from the S.C. Insurance Reserve Fund that airlines could use as a backstop if they lost money. The legislation would require a 25% local match.

Midlands leaders believed the bill was set up to help bring Southwest Airlines to airports in Charleston and Greenville-Spartanburg but not the Columbia Metropolitan Airport and worked to block it.

To fund a local incentive plan, Hill proposed a 5% fee on rental cars at a Charleston County committee meeting late last month. The fee would generate about $1.5 million per year, far short of state incentives.

The local incentive could work as a match under the proposed statewide air service incentive fund.

But even if the statewide bill doesn’t pass, Hill said the money generated by the rental car fee would still be available to carriers considering Charleston.

It’s unclear what, if any, effect today’s announcement might have on a state compromise on airline incentives.

Founded in 1971 and based in Dallas, Southwest Airlines operates more than 3,200 flights a day, serving 68 cities in 35 states.

According to its website, Southwest operates 537 Boeing 737 jets.

Southwest said it was the largest U.S. carrier as of Sept. 30, based on domestic passengers carried. The company had total operating revenue of $10.4 billion in 2009 and net income of $99 million.

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Added: 14 May 2010

YEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! Southwest is an AWESOME airline and company and South Carolina will GREATLY benefit from this link!!


Added: 19 May 2010

southwest needs to come to sc you have to drive to raleigh now to catch a southwest flight but its almost worth the drive with the money you save on the flight and them not charging for your bags and such too


Added: 29 May 2010

i hope thay stay


Added: 7 Jun 2010

I am so excited about southwest coming to Greenville, as we always drive 2 1/2 hrs to Atlanta,1 1/2 hrs is more appealing with less traffic, I just hope they go to San Diego,Ca as I make 4 trips a year out there. And where ever else they go will be great as well.

Susan levey

Added: 15 Jun 2010

The sooner the better !! Like tomorrow !

Kathryn Moose

Added: 16 Jun 2010

Do you have a date when service out of CHS will start?


Added: 6 Jul 2010

Great news! I also wonder when I book a flight out of Charleston.


Added: 14 Jul 2010

Wooohooo. When can I start booking flights out of Charleston? Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina!!!


Added: 25 Jul 2010

Yes-SW flies to San Diego! I can't wait until service starts to Charleston. I love SC. I usually fly Delta through Atlanta and on to Savannah. This will be much better!

Michael Kohn

Added: 26 Jul 2010

I love Southwest!!! They make air travel so simple! I can't wait until they are in Charleston. I'm starting to plan my travels!!!


Added: 27 Jul 2010

Absolutely!!!!! cheap flights for those of us who are from the Mid-West!!! I am sooooo EXCITED!!!!


Added: 26 Aug 2010

when will start taking reservations for flights coming into Charleston, S.C.

donald compton

Added: 3 Sep 2010

Yah Southwest!!! How soon can we start booking?

rhonda brow

Added: 22 Sep 2010

when will southwest start flying out of greenville.

shirley bushor

Added: 25 Sep 2010

When will Southwest start operations into Charleston? I hope very soon. Please reply. Thank you

fred dinkelbach

Added: 18 Oct 2010

Anxiously awaiting SW flying to Charleston, SC. When will this miracle take place?

Joan Evans