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Southwest flying to SC

Southwest Airlines, known for its low fares and no baggage fees, will start flying out of two regional South Carolina airports in the next year. And the airline says it'll do so without the help of a $15 million tax incentive package state lawmakers were struggling to pass. Both the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport and Charleston International lost their low cost airlines in the last few years and since then, fares have gone sky high. "It was really getting to the point where you could either go to Geneva for the weekend or you could go to Washington DC, cause it wasn't really that big a difference in price," quips Clemson University economist Curtis Simon. The high fares created "leakage" - that's airport lingo for all the people who've been driving to Charlotte and Atlanta in search of cheaper flights. It's reached nearly 65 percent for the Greenville- Spartanburg Airport, according to executive director Dave Edwards. He says Southwest's presence at the airport will push other airlines to lower their fares and could ultimately save passengers hundreds of dollars off current prices. The fact that it's happening without a big tax incentive is nice, too, says Edwards. "Getting a carrier the caliber of Southwest airlines is a great win for the state," says Edwards. He compares it to the economic impact companies like Boeing and BMW have had on the Charleston and Greenville areas. As a result, Edwards expected Southwest to insist on a tax incentive deal. "Fortunately they took a step back and determined they were now ready to go at this without any of those incentives," says Edwards. Southwest Airlines passed up an offer from Columbia airport officials to sign deals with Charleston and Greenville instead. The airline hasn't yet said where it will fly or how frequently, but Edwards expects the routes to stop many passengers from "leaking" up to Charlotte's airport. If Southwest's rates are low enough, it may even cause some leakage in the opposite direction.