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A Southwest 737-800 takes off in Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Southwest Releases Schedule For Service To Fresno, Santa Barbara

The prolonged COVID-19 catastrophe has proven to be a daunting obstacle for the airline industry, one that has forced airlines to question their traditional methods for operating and marketing flight routes through their fortified hubs. As a result, major U.S. carriers have had to make tough decisions on where to allocate their resources for profitable flight operations while making cuts where necessary.

Those difficult choices, however, have opened up new possibilities to serve new cities and accomplish milestones. Southwest Airlines — a carrier that has capitalized on those opportunities as much as any other — officially announced the initial flight schedules for its upcoming new flight operations to Fresno and Santa Barbara, Calif., roughly one month after sharing its intention to serve the two cities. 

The carrier plans to fly from Santa Barbara to Denver, Las Vegas and Oakland, beginning April 12. Flights to Denver and Oakland will operate once daily, while the airline scheduled three daily flights to Las Vegas. Southwest will inaugurate flights from Fresno to Denver and Las Vegas on April 25, operating one and three daily flights, respectively. 

“We’re boldly launching this eagerly anticipated new year by doubling-down on our consistent commitment to California to offer our value and flexibility to now 13 airports in the state,” Southwest Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Watterson said.

The airline officially renamed itself to the current Southwest Airlines on March 29, 1971, after originally being named Air Southwest Co. The Dallas-based carrier first commenced flight operations to California in 1982 — inaugurating service to Los Angeles on Sept. 18 and San Francisco on Oct. 31 of that year — ultimately beginning the journey toward its current prominence within the state. 

“Not only does Southwest Airlines celebrate 50 years of service in 2021, we’re gratefully acknowledging the support of Californians who have made us the largest air carrier of fliers traveling nonstop to, from and within The Golden State for 20 consecutive years,” Watterson added.

An Airline Making Bold Decisions

Southwest’s upcoming service launch is an expansion of its route network to California. However, its decision to inaugurate flights does not stop with brand new operations to The Golden State.

In October 2020, Southwest began a portion of its historic expansion with the monumental choice to fly from Miami to four cities, adding to its current operations in Fort Lauderdale. Afterward, in its historic return, the airline announced brand new flights to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport starting in April 2021, complementing its existing stronghold at Hobby Airport. 

In addition, Southwest plans to serve Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport — which American and United currently consider as one of their major hubs — in February 2021, which will complement its significant home at Midway Airport.

“Southwest is stretching into new places to provide for two needs: desired options for our Customers who seek snow or sun, and wide-open spaces to enjoy a break from the unexpected that 2020 brought,” Watterson said, “and for our Company, a critically-needed new business that offsets the diminished demand for travel across other parts of the country,” which portrays its choice to possibly challenge legacy airlines such as American and United while entering new airports and expanding its existing markets.

Southwest is notable for its point-to-point flight operations model, which is unique among the four biggest U.S. carriers, the rest of which make use of a hub-and-spoke-style model. Its recent and upcoming flight network expansions are notable milestones for the airline, eschewing its traditional business model in hopes of creating a challenge for the major carriers.

Benjamin Pham
Benjamin Pham
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