File image from the Associated Press.
CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- Southwest Airlines executives say they will keep their subsidiary, AirTran, flying into Grand Rapids.
AirTran began service to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in May 2010. A few months later, Southwest merged with the smaller discount airline.
The Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan led the recruitment effort to bring AirTran to Ford Airport. On Friday, RAA founder Dick DeVos issued a statement praising Southwest's decision to stay in Grand Rapids.
"This is a real endorsement that both the Gerald R. Ford International Airport will continue to be a strong regional asset and that West Michigan appreciates and supports quality commercial air service," said DeVos in the statement.
Nearly 2.3 million travelers passed through Ford Airport last year, and administrators credit discount airlines for the success.
They hope Southwest brings more flights to Grand Rapids.
"At this point we don't know the specific routes they'll be flying to," said Phil Johnson, acting executive director of Ford International Airport. "All we know is that they are going to continue to fly where they do now. We hope to work with them in the future to expand the destinations they fly to from here."
Airline executives say they will phase out the AirTran name on flights and eventually convert them to Southwest.