Southwest Airlines flying into Richmond Int'l

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Big changes coming to Richmond International: Southwest Airlines is set to fly in soon. It is all apart of the AirTran-Southwest merger. Southwest announced on Friday it would continue service at Richmond after the merger.

Nothing but smiles and excitement at the airport over the news that Southwest Airlines is coming. But, not so fast. There is still some work to be done before any Southwest planes take flight over the River City.

We all know taking to the friendly skies these days is anything but cheap. About a year or so ago-- the Chamber of Commerce paid for some ad time to encourage people to fly discounted Jetblue or AirTran. Now -- flies in Southwest!

"It's great. Airfare has been pretty expensive here. So, it's nice that we can get some discounted fares," said traveler Matthew McQuillan.

"They are a great airline. They are a lot of fun," added Tracy Hale.

She is really looking forward to the discount carrier. "For both business traveling and vacation traveling I like to go out west so I think it's wonderful. The access it gives us out west is pretty awesome."

We are learning that traveling out west right out of Richmond is a real possibility. Southwest flies there often. Richmond airport officials say there is strong demand out of Richmond to fly to places like Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and more.

Here is some even better news. Right now you have to pay for your first bag through AirTran. Southwest says it plans to keep the popular, "2 bags fly free" motto.

But before any of this can become a reality--- AirTran and Southwest must still merge as one airline. We're told that's something that should happen soon.

Then, Southwest leaders will look at demand and see where additional flights and destinations would be added.

Southwest officials say the transition from AirTran to Southwest will take place over the next 2 years.

Richmond International nearly landed Southwest about 10 years ago, but that deal fell through.

We're told that even after the AirTran-Southwest merger, there will still be non-stop flights to at least Orlando and Atlanta out of Richmond.

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