A campaign to boost business travel on AirTran Airways by earning free flights faster will continue through February, organizers said Tuesday.
Under the program, businesses that sign up for AirTran's frequent-flier program -- called A2B Corporate Travel -- will earn free flights at twice the pace on travel taken in October, November, January or February.
Wichita-area businesses -- 103 in all -- have pledged $650,000 to be used on AirTran flights, organizers said. The purpose is to develop brand loyalty and increase business ridership on AirTran.
Wichita must continue to be innovative to keep affordable air service, said Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce president Bryan Derreberry.
"You can't walk away and say 'It's fixed,' " Derreberry said.
The airport is as vital to the area as "any bridge or any piece of highway -- that's what makes us go," he said.
Area companies need access to suppliers and customers around the globe. Without good air service, Derreberry said, it's difficult to entice businesses to move, expand or stay here.
Derreberry declined to say how many extra frequent-flier miles business travelers have earned since the enhanced frequent-flier program started in June. AirTran considers that information proprietary, he said.
Although organizers fell short of their goal to raise $1 million, the program has beena success, Derreberry said. AirTran is still in Wichita, and there is enough money to continue the program to February.
City, county and chamber officials plan to fly to Orlando next month to meet with AirTran officials. They hope to gain insight into what AirTran is experiencing in the Wichita market and in the airline business, Derreberry said.
In May, the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County approved $3.5 million in revenue guarantees to AirTran to help underwrite losses the airline might suffer in its fourth year of business in Wichita. AirTran, which lost money serving Wichita last year, has already received $7 million in subsidies.
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