ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - If you're old enough, you may remember when St. Louis was an international hub for Trans World Airlines (TWA). There's a new effort to convince Southwest Airlines to once again make Lambert Airport a hub and provide a boost to the local economy.
Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, director of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, said the sales pitch to Southwest Airlines has been going on for some time. The goal: convince Southwest to make St. Louis a center for international flights.
Southwest will eventually take over AirTran's international routes, which include Aruba, the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Other international routes will likely be added, especially the expanding market to Latin America.
According to Bob Ferguson, president of Millennium Financial Group, St. Louis becoming a hub for Southwest Airlines would be huge.
"You get additional parking fees, get gate fees, taxes, all kinds of rents that are charged as merchants use them," Ferguson said. "The tickets to Latin America doubled between 2011 and 2012. It's a growing market, so anybody who has an interest in Latin America would definitely want to be able to fly out of here."
Hamm-Niebruegge said it will be another 12 to 24 months for Southwest and Airtran to fully integrate their computer systems and international flights. It could take that long before we know if St. Louis will become an international hub once again.