Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX-8 (Ashlee D. Smith/Southwest Airlines)
Written by Frank Lopez and Gabriel Dillard
The news that Southwest Airlines was going to begin service at Fresno Yosemite International Airport in Fresno in the second quarter of 2021 came as encouraging news to top off a bleak year.
Economic development officials — and not just those in Fresno — played a key role in selling the Central Valley as an ideal new home for the Dallas-based carrier, which is the largest in the U.S. and known for its low cost.
The addition of Southwest is also expected to help draw large employers to the region, as direct air travel to Seattle was a factor in bringing Amazon to the Central Valley.
Here is what local officials are saying about the Southwest Airlines deal on Wednesday:
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand
“When you have more airline service, and I mentioned Amazon having that direct flight from Fresno to Seattle, I think it’s very good for the city. It’s not one thing that does it, but it’s a series of motions and this is a big part of the puzzle that brings together economic prosperity.”
Fresno County Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Lee Ann Eager
“Southwest clearly was that one piece that we were missing. I think that this will open up an entire new set of opportunities for us in bringing businesses here.”
Fresno Director of Aviation Kevin Meikle
“We’ve got everything ready for them. We may be doing some minor amounts of internal remodeling for their specifications, and they’ll be getting back to us on what that might be. At the end of the day, whatever minor work we do need to do will be at our cost and wont impact the city or the residents of the City of Fresno and it will be done and ready by the end of March”
Visalia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gail Zurek
“It was exciting and an honor to be the only non-Fresno person in the room. We covered our economic vitality, tourism assets, and the role Southwest Airlines could play in each area. This has been a hard year, but this certainly is a bright spot for the Visalia Chamber, our community, and region.”
Visit Visalia Executive Director Nellie Freeborn
“Having Southwest Airlines enter our market is a game-changer for Visalia that will bring new customers to our hotels, restaurants and attractions, making us an ideal destination for leisure, business and convention travelers.”
Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen
“Southwest Airlines committing to expanding services to the Central Valley is good news for business and tourism in our City, as well as for our greater community.”