A little more than two months after American Airlines Flight #5882 taxied down Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport's runway and headed west, it was announced Tuesday that a smaller carrier will be flying people directly south to Austin.

Via Airlines will begin a nonstop flight from Austin to Amarillo and back everyday except Saturdays beginning in mid-September. Another win for Amarillo might be that this will be Via Airlines only intra-state route from Austin.

"As much as we do down in Austin -- that being our state capital and all the things that surround the Legislature and the business and all the growth going on down in Austin and the growth that's beginning to occur here -- it just makes sense that we have a flight that goes between the two cities," said Amarillo City Councilmember Eddy Sauer during Tuesday morning's announcement at the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce office.

The flights, which will begin Sept. 19, will originate at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. It will leave Austin at 7:45 a.m. and arrive in Amarillo at 9:15 a.m. The return flight will leave Amarillo at 9:50 a.m. and arrive at Austin-Bergstrom at 11:15 a.m.

Currently, Via Airlines has a fleet of 10 planes. The 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 will be the plane that flies between the two cities.

"Our intention is to double that fleet allowing us to double our footprint," said Don Bowman, the airlines' director of planning and business development. "We want to do it slowly, methodically and carefully to make sure we don't grow too big, too fast."

Bowman said the Embraer 145, of which there are five in the fleet, is a "fantastic size because it allows you to get on the aircraft quickly, and it allows you to get off the aircraft because that is probably the most uncomfortable part of the flight." He added that there are no middle seats; everyone either sits by the window or aisle.

Via Airlines started in 1997 as a charter airline on the East Coast. About two years ago, it started the process of petitioning the federal government to get its license to become a commercial carrier. During the past six months "we've been developing a pretty aggressive route system," Bowman said.

Austin is one of the carrier's "focus cities," along with Charlotte, N.C., and its headquarters in Sanford, Fla., just outside Orlando. According to its website, Via Airlines now has 16 destinations.

"It's our hope that the traffic (in Amarillo) is so strong that we'll have to add a second flight," Bowman said. "And we will have to find additional places other than Austin for Amarillo to fly to, maybe it's east, west or north. I don't know."

Bowman said he is hoping to double that fleet by the end of this year or early next year. Of all the cities in Texas, why did Via Airlines select Amarillo?

"Because Amarillo is a regional hub with a lot of traffic," Bowman said.

Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said he believes that many people from Amarillo now are driving to Austin or driving to Lubbock to fly to Austin.

"I think having this will show us how many people really want to fly to Austin," Miller said.

It's been a busy year for airport director Michael Conner.

"Over this last year, I've heard nothing but, 'Hey, we want to go to Austin. We want to go to Austin. We want to go to Austin' from the community, so we just pursued it," said Conner, who has been at the airport's helm for less than a year. "We recently did a study and Austin was way up there on the list. It was the only one we considered having enough daily passengers that wasn't served."

Miller added, "There's not a destination we're more interested in going to directly than Austin. There's so many governmental entities and there's so many other entities here in town that need to talk to the Legislature. They need to go for training and state organizations. They need to do all types of business in our state's capital. So this is an incredibly important destination for the city of Amarillo."