Rapidly growing Asheville Regional Airport adds Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines announced Wednesday they will begin service from Asheville Regional Airport to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Orlando International Airport and Tampa International Airport. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

While Asheville Airport management and Spirit Airlines executives announced the addition of the airport's sixth airline, Spirit Airlines pilot Thomas Rickman arrived home in Asheville. He had come home to take care of personal business when he received good news.

"All these airlines come in and start growing out of Asheville. I kept hoping for us, hoping for us. I got a text this morning from a friend of mine, and I was thoroughly happy," Rickman said.

Airport spokesperson Tina Kinsey says the addition of Spirit Airlines is a huge growth opportunity for the airport.

Kinsey points out a report from Bloomberg News that shows Asheville Regional is the second fastest growing airport in the country behind Destin, Florida.

"We have been planning for growth. We are able to handle this now and into the future," Kinsey said.

Kinsey points out the addition of the 1,100 space, a five-story parking garage, additional airfield space, and an ongoing terminal assessment study.

But, while the Spirit celebration was happening, Zulfiqar Ahmad, who was in from Johnson City to get his daughter on a flight, was searching for a parking space.

"I started from the first floor, on the ground floor, kept going, and I couldn't find it until I found, finally, one spot only, period. And my daughter wonders if I'm coming back or not," he said.

Ahmad says he found that spot on the top level.

"I was lucky to find one spot. Otherwise I would have to call her, tell her 'Hey, goodbye and pay for the parking without parking."

Passenger Ed Majcher overheard our interview with Ahmad and shared his thoughts.

"It was sad that he goes through an automated machine for parking and he gets a ticket, and they're are no signs that let him know if there are spaces available or no spaces available,"Majcher said.

But while the two visitors question how Asheville Regional will handle more growth, Spirit pilot Thomas Rickman is looking forward to the changes.

"I'm going to e-mail one of our guys and say, 'Hey, I want to do your first Asheville flight, because, being born and raised here, I think that would be something special to do," he said.

Spirit Airlines will begin operating out of Asheville on September 6, with three weekly flights to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale each, and two weekly flights to Tampa. The airline plans to add more flights in November.

Kinsey said the last time a major airline added service to Asheville was Allegiant in 2011.

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