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Southwest Airlines soaring in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI)-- Change remains a constant at St. Louis’ airport. In fact, just last month the airport underwent a slight name change.

A minor move when you consider the volatility of the airline industry. St. Louis saw first-hand how three letters brought a whole alphabet of change to local air travel, but these days one airline is changing Lambert for the better.

“Southwest is really getting a big name here in St. Louis. Everyone wants to fly out of here.” said Jeff Hart, Southwest Airlines St. Louis Station Manager.

The most recent data from the Department of Transportation shows more than half the people leaving Lambert do so on a Southwest flight.

“The minds are really working. What more can we do out of St. Louis to be the hometown airline here?” added Hart.

The answer to that question likely lies in the east terminal. During our visit, we found crews hard at work renovating the concourse once home to TWA. Lambert and Southwest anticipate future growth, and that means preparing more gates here. In June, 109 Southwest flights a day will depart from Lambert, its most since the airline came to St. Louis in 1985.

“I like the boarding. It’s easy to board." said Southwest passenger John White of Charleston, IL.

Speaking of boarding, while rapider is not a word, rapid boarding is something Southwest says it’s serious about. That’s why Southwest is testing playing music in a few St. Louis jet ways. A company spokesperson says it's interested in seeing if the presence of music makes the boarding process more speedy and efficient.

Music, along with special messages on certain boarding elements could be featured in Southwest terminals around the country.

“I think it’s less stressful. They really try to take it back to how it used to be years ago when you flew.” said Southwest traveler Tara Bennett of Springfield, IL.

Southwest’s customer service should only improve because of its new provisioning center in St. Louis.

“Hospitality is the Southwest battle cry," said Southwest provisioning manager Rick Huch.

Huch gave Fox 2 an exclusive look inside the facility that houses everything from toilet paper to peanuts.

“Flights may fly two, three destinations without provisioning until they get to St. Louis. At that time, we’re going to give the flight attendants everything they need to serve our customers.” added Huch.

With flights to 101 destinations and only 20 provisioning centers around the country, St. Louis is key in keeping Southwest customers happy.

Mix loyal customers and expanding service with a focus on the future, and it’s easy to see why Southwest Airlines is soaring in St. Louis.

While Southwest doesn't currently fly internationally from St. Louis, the company says it is preparing for that possibility one day.

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