Rochester, N.Y. - Southwest Airlines will start flying out of the Greater Rochester International Airport in April. Local air travelers hope for additional destinations and cheaper fares.
Southwest bought AirTran Airways and earlier this year announced plans to keep operations in Rochester. The conversion will be finished in April. New routes and schedules will be announced on Monday.
Eighteen percent of passengers flying out of Rochester use AirTran.
"We will obviously see additional destinations offered," said Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks. "We’re hoping for Chicago, Denver, some of the most requested by people who live here."
Southwest already flies out of the Buffalo airport. Dave Yanz is one of many local travelers who drives to Buffalo to take advantage of Southwest's fares.
"We’ve been finding it’s at least $100 a ticket round trip," Yanz said. "So for one person, the savings may not be worth the inconvenience, but if you start to multiply that by two, three, four people o a trip, it’s significant."
Rochester has already stemmed the tide of residents driving to Buffalo to fly. This time last year, 13 percent of the cars parked at Buffalo airport lots were from Genesee and Monroe counties. This year, the rate is 6 percent, according to Buffalo airport officials.
Brooks says other airlines have added routes and points to the amenities at the Rochester airport, including valet service and free Wi-Fi.
Yanz hopes Southwest offers similar service to Rochester.
"I would prefer to support the local airport if I could, but you really need to look at the dollars you can save, even if you have to fly out of Buffalo."