Local officials have signed off on a statewide program that is aimed at getting more people to be able to afford air transportation out of Wichita.
The Great Bend City Council voted to support the Affordable Air Fares for Kansans program, that is aimed at encouraging use of the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita.
City Administrator Howard Partington noted the Wichita flights are already important to local businesses and will presumably become more so in the future, since the federal move to address overspending looks as if it is targeting the Essential Air Service program, which has helped subsidize commuter flights out of Great Bend and other small, Kansas airports.
While the local airport will continue to play a vital role for businesses and freight, there are questions about how many more years commuter flights will come here, if the EAS program funding is cut.
That leaves local travelers with the option of driving the two hours to Wichita for flights, and that is where the Affordable Air Fares for Kansans program comes in.
According to a report from a regional economic development organization — Regional Economic Area Partnership — the program makes a major impact on the state. REAP noted that the program “saved Kansans more than $29.5 million dollars in reduced fares in 2009.
“According to studies conducted by Mid-Continent airport, Kansans from three of every four Kansas counties regularly utilize the airport and this program will continue to lessen the need for Kansans to leave the state when traveling by air.”
It’s especially important for western Kansas, the REAP report noted. “This program helps residents from many communities throughout Kansas, including some of the biggest users of the Mid-Continent airport: Colby, Hays, Salina, Junction City, Emporia, McPherson, Hutchinson, Great Bend, Garden City, Dodge City, Newton, El Dorado, Independence, Parsons, Winfield, and Wichita.”
Great Bend supports affordable flying program