Southwest Airlines just announced 3 brand-new destinations in a continued low-cost leisure route expansion

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737. AP
  • Southwest Airlines is adding three new destinations to its route map in 2021.
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Bellingham, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon are slated to see new flights.
  • Routes from each airport are still unknown but the first flights plan to launch by the summer.
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Southwest Airlines on Monday announced plans to serve three new destinations across the US later this year.

The low-cost carrier will soon serve Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Bellingham, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon in yet another pandemic-era expansion that follows the addition of Bozeman, Montana and Destin, Florida announced last month.

Myrtle Beach will be the first city to see new flights, with CEO Gary Kelly saying in a statement that the destination aims to serve summer travelers and golfers, in particular. Golf bags count as one of the two complimentary bags that Southwest flyers can check, with the airline coining “golf bags fly free” as a play on one of its classic slogans, “bags fly free.”

The coastal Carolinian city adds to Southwest’s existing chain of destinations on the southeast Atlantic shoreline. Savannah, Georgia and Miami were was added to Southwest’s network in 2020 and the Myrtle Beach addition gives the carrier coverage at nearly every major airport on the Atlantic coast from South Carolina to south Florida.

Bellingham, closer to Vancouver, Canada than Seattle, will then see flight in the second half of 2021 as it serves a cross-border market. Canadians frequently drive across the US border to catch flights to save on the taxes levied on international flights by the US and Canadian governments.

“Following the reopening of the Canadian border, we expect a return of the value-minded travelers who already drive to this alternative airport to escape high fares and taxes-and that’s very, very typical for Southwest destinations,” Kelly said.

The US-Canada border is currently closed for non-essential travel, a pandemic-era policy nearing its one-year anniversary, but it may be reopened by the time Southwest starts service. US and Canadian officials renew the policy on a monthly basis and the accelerated vaccine rollout in the US may encourage reopening talks.

Southwest joins the likes of Washington state’s hometown airline Alaska Airlines and ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air in serving Bellingham.

Eugene will only be Southwest’s second destination in the Beaver State behind Portland, surrounded by national forests and within driving distance from Oregon’s Pacific coast and Crater Lake National Park. Southwest won’t be alone in the city as American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska, and Allegiant serve Eugene from cities around the US.

Flights to Eugene are also slated for the second half of 2021.

Routes have not yet been announced to any of the new cities but Southwest will likely offer service to nearby bases that offer connections across the country. For Bellingham and Eugene, that likely means flights to Denver, Dallas, Las Vegas, or Phoenix while Myrtle Beach might see service to Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, or Nashville, Tennessee.

All routes will be flown by the airline’s Boeing 737 aircraft and will likely see the Boeing 737 Max. Southwest plans to resume flying the Max on March 11, the last airline in the US to do so behind American Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

Two existing destinations – Steamboat Springs and Telluride in Colorado – will also have their seasonal flights extended through the summer.