- Southwest Airlines just announced nine new leisure routes to cities across the country with a focus on Florida, Colorado, and California.
- The almost non-existent demand for business travel has forced Southwest to adjust its flyers, serving airports it has historically avoided and operating seasonal services.
- The airline recently asked employees to take a pay cut to avoid furloughs, an unprecedented ask for the airline.
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Southwest Airlines is the lastest US airline to further grow its leisure travel route network as the pandemic forces a shift away from business routes and into markets that the airline has historically avoided.
The focus of the expansion was on three cities, in particular, all of which currently do not see service from the country’s largest low-cost airline: Miami; Palm Springs, California; and Montrose, Colorado.
Just in time for the ski season, the Colorado expansion offers travellers quicker access to the slopes with connections through Denver International Airport, a Southwest focus city. Palm Springs is also a popular location for social distancing, with Alaska Airlines recently announcing new routes to the Inland Empire city, as well.
The biggest surprise in the announcement was the addition of Miami to Southwest Airlines’ destination list, to be served via Miami International Airport. South Florida has historically been served by Southwest through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Palm Beach International Airport, taking advantage of the better economics at each, but the airline now wants to be closer to the action in Miami.
Similar expansions in Chicago and Houston were also just announced. Southwest will begin to serve Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport in 2021.
Southwest has managed to avoid furloughs for its employees until at least 2021 but is now asking for employees to take pay cuts as a last-ditch measure to avoid staffing cuts. It would be the first time in the airline’s near-50-year history for either pay cuts or furloughs to occur but the continued slow-return to normal has the airline embarking on a series of firsts.
Here’s the full list of where Southwest is flying.
Between Miami and Tampa, Florida
The intra-Florida route will see Southwest Airlines planes on it for the very first time starting November 15. The three daily flights will initially compete with American Airlines’ existing service and then add Delta Air Lines as a competitor starting December 17.
Between Miami and Baltimore
Southwest will connect its newest destination with one of its largest hubs with a route between Miami and Baltimore on November 15. The daily service will operate four flights with competition from American Airlines and Frontier Airliners.
Between Miami and Houston
Southwest will connect Miami with its Houston hub starting November 15, offering one-stop connections within Texas and to the Western US.
The four daily flights will be the only between Miami International Airport and Houston’s Hobby Airport but Southwest will compete with United Airlines and American Airlines, both of which utilise Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Between Miami and Chicago
Southwest will connect Miami with its Chicago hub starting November 15 with only one daily flight. While the route will be the only between Miami International Airport and Chicago’s Midway Airport, the service will see heavy-hitting competitors in the form of United Airlines and American Airlines, both of which offer multiple daily flights between the two cities, as well as ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines.
Between Palm Springs, California, and Oakland, California
Southwest will offer twice-daily service between the California cities of Palm Springs and Oakland starting November 15. The route has no direct competitors but Alaska Airlines and United Airlines currently connect Palm Springs with Bay Area airports including San Francisco International Airport and San Jose International Airport.
Between Palm Springs, California and Phoenix
Southwest will offer twice-daily service between Palm Springs, California, and Phoenix starting November 15. American Airlines offers the only other flights between Palm Springs and Phoenix with multiple daily flights operated under its regional brand, American Eagle.
A lesser-known airline, Boutique Air, also just started service between the two cities using Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. Southwest will offer the largest aircraft on the route with its Boeing 737 series aircraft.
Between Palm Springs, California, and Denver
Southwest will offer once-daily service between Palm Springs, California, and Denver starting November 15. The route will see United Airlines and Frontier Airlines as competitors with the former offering multiple daily flights and the latter resuming seasonal service on November 19, just four days following Southwest’s entrance.
Between Montrose, Colorado, and Denver
Southwest will begin serving the Colorado cities of Montrose and Telluride via Montrose Regional Airport on December 19. The seasonal service will see up to three-times-daily service to its hub in Denver, offering connections from cities across the country.
The scheduled end date for the route is April 5, 2021, with competition from United Airlines. Denver Air Connection also flies directly between Denver and Telluride Regional Airport, offering a more direct alternative using smaller aircraft.
Between Montrose, Colorado, and Dallas
Southwest will also begin flying between Montrose and its home base of Dallas starting on December 19 with one flight on Saturdays and Sundays until April 4, 2021. American Airlines will be the airline’s sole competitor on the route, offering multiple daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.