Southwest Airlines has scheduled its first takeoff from Richmond.
The Dallas-based airline announced Tuesday that it will operate a daily nonstop flight to Orlando from Richmond beginning Nov. 3.
The route marks the company’s first Southwest-branded flights out of Richmond International Airport a step toward an eventual phasing out of AirTran Airways.
“Even though it hasn’t been on our map, Richmond has been on our radar for a long time,” Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said. “We’re delivering on our promise to convert every AirTran city into a Southwest city.”
In 2011, Southwest acquired AirTran. Since then, the company has been slowly converting the AirTran brand into Southwest across the country.
AirTran will continue to run a nonstop flight from Richmond to Atlanta, but Hawkins said the brand would be eventually be replaced by Southwest.
For now, Orlando will be the only Southwest flight out of Richmond. As demand increases, Hawkins said Southwest would add destinations.
“Richmond is getting its shot to show us what the market is,” Hawkins said. “If they fly it, we’ll come.”
The Southwest flight will give Richmond passengers access to a bigger, more developed network than AirTran offered, said Richmond International Airport spokesman Troy Bell.
“This is really the first time we can say Richmond is becoming a Southwest city,” Bell said. “It’s a major milestone for us.”
The region pushed hard after the Southwest/AirTran merger to make sure Southwest chose Richmond as one of its destinations after the deal closed.
A marketing campaign launched in 2010 urged Richmonders to “Save Low Fares” and fly the lower-cost carriers out of RIC, such as AirTran and JetBlue.
Bell said fares for the Southwest flights would vary.
“They tend to keep their fares competitive,” Bell said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to be the lowest fare for every flight, but I think Richmond will benefit from this.”