The coronavirus pandemic continues to plague the airline industry into the fall travel season, and carriers are considering all options…
Southwest Airlines Adds Two New Destinations
Southwest Airlines has announced it will expand to two new destinations. In a message to employees, CEO Gary Kelly announced intent to serve Miami, Florida and Palm Springs, California. The additions continue the trend of adding destinations and routes to leisure destinations, especially in Florida, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Start dates and specific city pairs have not been announced yet for the new destinations.
The new destinations match the current travel demand for leisure destinations. Kelly said the new cities will bring additional revenue to the airline and match availability with demand. Palm Springs will be the airline’s tenth destination in the Golden State. Southwest claims that it transports the most passengers to, from, and within California.
Miami is an interesting add for Southwest. The airline already has a heavy presence at the nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, including international flights and a new dedicated concourse. Southwest already utilizes Miami weekly for maintenance inspections on its fleet. The airline will now be able to turn these previously-empty flights into revenue legs.
In South Florida, the airline also serves the West Palm Beach and is the third-largest carrier at Fort Lauderdale. Miami will likely supplement Southwest’s traffic in the two cities. However, Miami opens up new opportunities that make it more convenient for some leisure travelers, such as being closer to South Beach and easier access to the Florida keys. The airport also has easier access to Port Miami when cruise ships begin sailing again.
Miami has also seen an increase in low-cost carriers in recent years with Frontier Airlines establishing a hub at the airport. Traditionally Southwest has avoided larger airports, only recently favoring busier hubs.
In California, Palms Springs will not be the only airport seeing an expansion by Southwest. After JetBlue announced it will exit Long Beach next month, the city of Long Beach awarded Southwest the 17 slots that JetBlue has left. The increase in slots will give Southwest the ability to operate 34 flights into the airport, out of the mandated 53-flight maximum. The airline has not announced what additional flights it will operate with the new slots, but the city has suggested new destinations from the current seven served.
The additions by Southwest match the current trend in the airline industry of adding leisure destinations. In August, United Airlines announced a 23 route expansion between the midwest and northeast and Florida. Similarly, American Airlines announced an expansion of point to point leisure flying. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic leisure travelers continue to drive the airline industry.
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