Wilma DeKorne had her husband drop her off, along with her friend and neighbor, Norma Kimbrel, at Richmond International Airport a little before 9 a.m. Thursday.
Maybe they would see him later, she told him.
Or not, as it turns out.
DeKorne and Kimbrel, both of whom live in Manakin-Sabot, won a free three-day trip to Orlando, Fla., though they had to depart just 2½ hours later on the inaugural flight by Spirit Airlines out of Richmond.
The trademark bright-yellow Airbus A319 — which seats 145 passengers — that would carry them away taxied to the gate as ground crew held signs welcoming the plane.
The low-fare, à-la-carte carrier celebrated its entrance into the Richmond market Thursday — beginning with daily nonstop flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando — with flight and lodging drawings, a water-cannon salute, live music and “new plane smell” air-freshener giveaways.
“Why not?” Kimbrel said. “It’s an adventure.”
Their plan? “We’re just going to hang out at the resort, sit in the sun and relax,” DeKorne said.
David Smith and his wife, Michelle, won the trip to Fort Lauderdale. The Quinton couple are both recently retired.
Troy Bell, a spokesman for the Capital Region Airport Commission, said Spirit, which prides itself on a “bare fare” that gets passengers a seat and basically nothing else, is the first new major airline bringing daily service to the airport in about a decade.
Spirit will compete with JetBlue’s twice-daily nonstop flights to each city and Allegiant’s twice-weekly flights to Orlando-Sanford International Airport. Southwest stopped daily flights to Orlando more than a year ago, though it will offer weekend service on a seasonal basis beginning this month. Other airlines, including Delta and American Airlines, also offer service to the same Florida airports, although with a stop in between.
“Richmond’s been dying for a really low-cost carrier to come in,” said Rich Catalano, a 40-year-old Spirit pilot with two young children who lives in Henrico but flies out of Chicago. “Orlando’s great to take the kiddos to Disney.”