South by Southwest

Southwest AirlinesSouthwest Airlines has begun service to South Carolina. The low-cost carrier takes over for Air Tran, which pulled out over a year ago. (Coincidentally, Southwest recently announced a proposal to merge with Air Tran.)

It's been about a year since Southwest decided to add service to Charleston and Greenville-Spartenburg. They began flying March 13, 2011. Some in the industry say the carrier could save local travelers $180 million in ticket fares, with the added advantage of adding about 200,000 new visitors each year, part of that being meeting and event attendees.

The routes offered by Southwest include nonstop service to Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Nashville and Houston. The new kid in town will be good for both local travelers and those visiting South Carolina. Other airlines are already gearing up for competition.

Continental runs nonstop flights to Houston and Newark. American offers service to Miami and Dallas. Delta, a top local carrier for years, runs 15 nonstops to Atlanta as well as service to LaGuardia and Detroit. Nonstop flights to Charlotte, Philly, Washington and New York City can also be made on US Airways. United offers service to Chicago and Dulles. Of course, routes may change at any time.

Southwest made a splash with its first arrival when dozens of employees deplaned with toys for the Medical University of South Carolina's Children's Hospital and Ronald McDonald House.

From a planner's perspective, it's just nice to have more options to offer your attendees.
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