Southwest Airlines is still reviewing long-term plans for service to Wichita Mid-Continent Airport despite a public announcement today by Kansas state and local government officials that service will remain intact for the next year.

A delegation of elected officials, including governor Sam Brownback and Wichita mayor Carl Brewer, announced locally that Southwest executives have committed to preserve AirTran's service beyond 2013.

"This is exciting news for Wichita and south central Kansas," Brownback said in a statement.

Southwest completed the acquisition of AirTran last May, and is currently in the process of merging both route networks. As the merged carrier plans to unwind AirTran's Atlanta hub, the status of routes such as Wichita has been in question for several months.

Kansas elected officials appear satisfied that Southwest has agreed to a long-term commitment. The Dallas-based airline, however, released a statement that stopped short of a firm decision.

Southwest does have plans to "eventually" make Wichita part of the airline's route network, the carrier said.

"We still have work to do, however, before we can say exactly when that will be or what the Southwest service options will ultimately look like," the carrier said.

Southwest also has not decided if AirTran's current service from Wichita to Atlanta will continue, or if the service will transfer to one of the carrier's traditional hubs.

"We're still working through all of those decisions," Southwest said.

The Wichita Chamber of Commerce released a statement anyway welcoming Southwest's apparently informal, non-binding agreement.

"Having affordable flights and many flight choices is essential for keeping the cost of business competitive," said Lynn Nichols, a recent chair of the chamber.

City and state officials subsidise AirTran's service to Atlanta, assuring business and leisure travelers a low-fare option to Delta Air Lines.

Southwest asked the city and state officials to continue the subsidy, Nichols said.

Delta operates a 124-seat Airbus A319 daily on the pairing, and its regional partner Pinnacle Airlines also operates a 76-seat Bombardier CRJ900, according to Innovata. AirTran operates a 117-seat Boeing 717-200.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news