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Southwest toasted by GSP on one-year anniversary

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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Alli Belk fits so she is definitely a carry on. Alli and her family were returning home to Texas after visiting in the Charlotte area.

Alli Belk fits so she is definitely a carry on. Alli and her family were returning home to Texas after visiting in the Charlotte area. "(GSP and Southwest) is a great opportunity and great savings," Julie Belk, Allie's mother, said.



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Dave Edwards, Executive Director at GSP, and Southwest station manager Brian Williams, share a toast with airport employees and Southwest personnel and passengers during today's 1-year anniversary celebration.

Dave Edwards, Executive Director at GSP, and Southwest station manager Brian Williams, share a toast with airport employees and Southwest personnel and passengers during today's 1-year anniversary celebration.



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There can't be a party without a cake. GSP and Southwest shared refreshments with passengers and employees during the day long celebration at the airline's gates 3 and 4.

There can't be a party without a cake. GSP and Southwest shared refreshments with passengers and employees during the day long celebration at the airline's gates 3 and 4.

Dave Edwards led a toast to Southwest Airline’s one-year anniversary today at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer.

"Southwest has spurred tremendous growth and revitalized the airport," Edwards, Executive Director at GSP Airport District, said. "Air traffic is up 38 percent since last year and we're up 40 percent in January. It's hard to keep with it. It's exciting to be in this growth mode."

It's been a whirlwind year for GSP and Southwest (NYSE: LUV). GSP is reporting record passenger numbers thanks to the more than 200,000 people who have flown Southwest out of GSP.  Since March 13 last year, GSP has seen nearly one million passengers (925,000 plus) enplane with Southwest claiming 21 percent of the upstate market. The impact was immediate as GSP reported more than 20,000 more passengers enplaning in the final 18 days of March 2011.

"It's hard to believe that it's been a year since we welcomed Southwest Airlines into Upstate South Carolina and to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport," Edwards said.  "Our success has been undeniable.  We are extremely proud to call Southwest Airlines a partner, and we look forward to many more years of excellent service and continued growth."

GSP Board of Commissioners approved a $101 million Terminal Improvement Project last year that is underway and scheduled to be completed in October 2013. A GSP land use study is due in October that is being highly anticipated by the upstate economic communities. A cell phone lot has been designated at the former long-term parking and pavement and other infrastructure is ongoing. All those projects were planned before Southwest announced its arrival into GSP. "Southwest made us realize we needed to accelerate those plans," Edwards said.

Leland Burch, a GSP commissioner since 1985, said the commission meetings have become events. "It's exciting to go to a meeting and see the planning for GSP going on. The meetings are never dull. Our future looks bright."

GSP earned a 2011 ANNIE award among airports with 500,000 – 2 million passengers. (Nov. 15, 2011 GreerToday.com).

Edwards shared a Federal Aviation Administration study reporting that air passenger traffic will double by 2032. "We are on pace being prepared for that growth," Edwards said

The "Southwest Effect" was most noted by the drop in airfares at GSP. The highest airfares in the U.S. were recorded at GSP in 2010. They have dropped by 15 percent, according to industry reports. "A report last year showed we lost 60 percent of our potential market to Charlotte and Atlanta," Edwards said. A study in June is expected to detail the turnaround with that figure.

Julie Belk of Charlotte could have been Edwards' example A. Her family of five was flying out of GSP to Texas on Southwest after visiting friends and family in Charlotte and was headed back to Texas. "Southwest is perfect for us here (GSP). It's a great opportunity and great savings," Belk said.

"For years, customers have requested that Southwest bring our low fares and our legendary customer service to Greenville-Spartanburg, and we couldn't be more excited about the response from the Upstate community to choose our canyon blues as their hometown carrier," said Southwest Airlines GSP station manager Brian Williams.  "We are pleased with the bookings coming in for Greenville-Spartanburg since we began service a year ago, and we have not only the Upstate community to thank for that, but our employees who are dedicated to serving our customers with a smile every day."

Jack and Helen (no last names given) from Houston were visiting BMW and the upstate on vacation. "We came to enjoy the BMW Driving Experience," said Jack, an owner of an X5. "Southwest made it easy for us to fly here and drive up to Highway 11."
Edwards said the past year has been fast-paced. "My parents told me that time goes faster as you get older," Edwards said. "Time is flying by. There's a lot of excitement here at GSP and a lot of growth."

Businesses mentioned in this article.

BMW, GSP Airport

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