It’s no secret that Dick DeVos has a huge passion for aviation, and he even describes himself as a nerd for it. In fact, the DeVos family owns 12 private jets and four helicopters. With that in mind, Dick DeVos is one of the reasons that Grand Rapids was put on the map for airports. Around several years ago, Dick DeVos made a cold-call to the CEO of AirTran Airways, and he wooed him into improving the fortunes of the Grand Rapids airport. This fortuitous phone call helped to revolutionize air travel within western Michigan.
Dick DeVos soon made a phone call that got through to the CEO faster than what most of the other phone calls go through. One of the things that helped to make this deal happen was how the DeVos family owns the Orlando Magic’s NBA team. This Florida team actually only plays a little down the road from the AirTran’s headquarters. Dick DeVos spoke with the chief executive about the low cost of the carrier, and this led to a visit of business leaders in Grand Rapids. Eventually, a decision was made to operate non-stop flights right from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Only a few months after AirTran’s first began their services in the Grand Rapids area, Dick DeVos got lucky again. For example, during this time, Southwest Airlines made a purchase of AirTran’s. However, Dick DeVos still had obstacles he had to overcome. For example, he had to try to convince Southwest Airlines to bring their services to Grand Rapids. In the past, community leaders had failed at this task to get nonstop flights out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to reach over to Baltimore and Orlando.
Dick’s goal was to get Southwest Airlines to agree to expanding their services into Michigan. He told them about the AirTran story, and after that, they had to wait. While the company lowered services to some of the other communities, Grand Rapids wasn’t on the list, which became a big deal.
When the summer of 2013 rolled around the corner, Southwest Airlines began to add some direct flight routes to St. Louis, Denver, Orlando and Baltimore. This is when the Gerald R. Ford International Airport first got lucky because their growth in passengers doubled that of the national average. This prosperous success came to around $45 million in valuable upgrades that were only completed in 2018. This included new restrooms, streamlined security check-ins and business centers and restaurants.
Dick DeVos is a powerful business leader, and he also happens to be the husband of Betsy DeVos, the US Secretary of Education under the Donald Trump Administration. The DeVos family obviously had a big stake in wanting Grand Rapids airport to become successful because of how it’s the home of the Amway corporate hangars. Dick DeVos has developed a good reputation within the aviation realm. He has brought a lot of success to the Grand Rapids area, and he has helped to advise senior management on long-range planning, policy, spending and some of the regulatory matters that concern aviation. He didn’t have much experience with commercial flying when he first spoke with Southwest Airlines and brought them to Grand Rapids, which shows his power and influence.
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