Delta may be ready when you are, but I am more than ready for Southwest Airlines to begin service at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.

This move would be a marriage made in the friendly skies, if not heaven.

Savannah is a hot tourist destination.Southwest is a hot airline -- the nation’s No. 4 airline by traffic and the biggest hauler of domestic passengers.

Southwest is justly known and liked for its low-cost, no-frills service. While Delta and other airlines were piling it on with fare hikes and new fees, Southwest was lightening the load on the traveling public’s wallet. Competition is healthy.

I had always remained loyal to Georgia-based Delta but defected to the Texas-based Southwest about 10 years ago when I was fed up with being held hostage by Delta and their insanely inflated fares, especially for service between Savannah and Atlanta.

Southwest, which began operations humbly in 1971 with only four planes serving three cities in Texas, made a national name for itself as a maverick in an industry dominated by snooty elites who were mostly interested in serving the silk stocking and business crowd.

At its helm, Southwest had a disruptor who wanted to shake up this stagnant culture – a tell-it-like-it-is, whiskey-swilling, Marlboro-smoking, all-around good guy named Herb Kelleher.

“Wild Turkey whiskey and Philip Morris cigarettes are essential to the maintenance of human life,” the politically incorrect Kelleher once said. “I think my greatest moment in business was when the first Southwest airplane arrived after four years of litigation, and I walked up to it and I kissed that baby on the lips and I cried.”

Southwest’s success speaks for itself. It’s one of the nation’s most consistently profitable airlines. Its employees and customers are loyal.

I’ve been flying Southwest for about a decade, even though it means bypassing the Savannah airport and driving to Jacksonville, Fla., or Charleston, S.C., to catch a Southwest flight. But I don’t mind driving about two hours, one way, to save a small bundle. And truth be told, I’d rather drive to my destination and avoid most American airports, which are miserable places. Many terminals have the same charming ambiance as meat-packing plants that move herds of bovines. Getting through the TSA checkpoint is akin to crossing the River Styx.

But Savannah’s airport, compares well. It’s more modern than most. The current terminal, built in 1994, is airy and easy to negotiate. Getting into and out of the place is a breeze compared to the long, painful slogs at older airports. Napoleon had an easier time getting the French army out of Russia than lone travelers have had in getting out of airports in New York, LA, Washington and Chicago.

To its credit, the appointed commission that runs Savannah’s city-owned airport is looking to eliminate the bottlenecks that exist now. Airport director Greg Kelly outlined some of them last week during his state of the airport address. The airport, like the seaport, is a key gateway to Savannah and must be well-tended.

But the most hopeful takeaway from Kelly was word that the airport was gunning for Southwest Airlines:

″(Southwest) is a big target for us that we’re working on... Now they’ve taken notice of all the growth here and they’re talking to us, they have visited here, they’ve visited Hilton Head and they’re very impressed.”

As they should be.

But Kelly said Savannah must be ready.

“We’ve got to do the expansion with the terminal building to make sure we have the capacity when they come in,” he added, “because when they come in they come in big and we’ll be ready for them.”

The mayor and City Council should take notice.

Southwest is rolling the dice on a bigger future by investing $4.68 billion to buy 40 new Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be flying the friendly skies to and from Savannah.

Airlines like Northwest and Delta are like the passengers they serve – they’re looking for the best deal. While passengers like me are responsible for what is termed the “leakage” of area residents who choose to fly out of other cities, I couldn’t care less. My wants are simple: Get me to where I want to go when I want to go, safely and at a fair price. I don’t mind driving to get what I want.

Savannah is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Yet it is conspicuous by its absence on the Southwest route map. Southwest flies into Panama City, Fla., but not Savannah? How does that happen? Adding service to Savannah should be a no-brainer for Southwest, a win for all budget-minded travelers and a victory for the city’s vibrant tourism economy.

Airport commission chairman Steve Green, commission members Shirley James, Lois Wooten, Ted Kleisner and Randy Houston, and other local officials should go all out to convince Southwest Airlines to begin service here.

Then break out the Wild Turkey.

If I could get out onto the tarmac without getting shot or arrested, I might be inclined to kiss the first Southwest plane that lands.

Tommy Barton is the retired editorial page editor of the Savannah Morning News. Iamnotoldnews@gmail.com