MIAMI – Southwest Airlines (WN) announced today its schedules for flights to new destination cities, Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD), and Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS). All flights will be operated by Boeing 737-700s, each with 143 seats.
Southwest’s “Other” Chicago Airport
Southwest will be spreading their LUV to ORD on February 14, 2021 with the following schedule.
|Dallas-Love Field (DAL)||4x|
|Phoenix-Sky Harbor (PHX)||2x|
Southwest has served Chicago’s secondary airport, Midway (MDW), for 35 years and was WN’s largest hub by daily departures in 2019. The expansion to ORD is quite astonishing, giving the competition already there. United Airlines’ has its largest hub in ORD and American Airlines has their third-largest hub there as well. O’Hare has also seen an influx of ultra-low-cost carrier flights from Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, who both maintain focus cities at ORD.
These new destinations connect O’Hare with some of Southwest’s largest cities. This will allow for connections throughout their North American network. Twenty daily flights are quite high for a new Southwest destination, especially when 8 of the flights compete directly with hub-to-hub routes of other airlines, but WN likely believes that it can provide a better quality of service and adequate connections for Chicago-based flyers.
Some notable omissions include Las Vegas (LAS) and Orlando (MCO). Both of these airports serve as primary US-tourist destinations, as well as large Southwest hubs. Both of these cities are likely to see service in the future once attractions reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rocky Mountain Fever
Southwest will also be starting service to Colorado Springs on March 1, 2021 with the schedule below.
|Dallas-Love Field (DAL)||3x|
|Las Vegas (LAS)||2x|
|Phoenix-Sky Harbor (PHX)||2x|
Colorado Springs is the second largest city in Colorado, behind Denver. Its airport is also the second-busiest behind DEN. Frontier Airlines operated a focus city in COS from 2012 to 2017, but has since left. Western Pacific Airlines had its main hub at COS from its founding 1994 to 1997, and served various airports from coast to coast.
This schedule follows the usual trend of new Southwest cities—a few flights to Southwest’s key hubs. However, the six-daily flights to Denver come as a surprise.
The distance between DEN-COS is just 73 miles. This will be Southwest’s shortest flight as it is 11 miles less than the Kahului-Kailua/Kona route in Hawaii. In fact, Southwest’s previous three shortest flights all operated within the state of Hawaii. With no other way to connect between the islands other than by plane, these short routes tend to be very busy.
United Airlines and United Express offer many daily flights between Colorado Springs and their hub in Denver. However, if there is inclement weather in Denver, these flights are usually the first to get cancelled due to the proximity of the cities and that the 50-seat regional jets that operate the flights sometimes have issues with visibility and flight performance. Many people drive to Denver to depart, but the drive is through the mountains and can be treacherous in snow and icing conditions.
Some even use the service to solely visit Denver, but this usually leads to very high prices in the United Airlines booking system. These new Southwest flights will almost double capacity on the route, increase the likelihood of flights operating in bad weather, and significantly decrease costs on the route.
A “New” Southwest Airlines?
These two cities come in a shift in network planning philosophies at WN. In previous times, Southwest focused on s cities with a sustained market share throughout the year. They also tended to shy away from mega-hubs, usually resorting to smaller airports near-by. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, they are looking for all possible ways to increase revenue.
Earlier this year, Southwest announced seasonal flights to Colorado ski resort cities, Montrose (MTJ) and Hayden (HDN), with service to only DEN and DAL. They also announced service to Palm Springs (PSP). Although this is a very seasonal destination, the airline announced that they would serve the airport year-round.
Last month, Southwest announced a resumption of service to Houston-Bush/Intercontinental (IAH) after a 16-year hiatus as well as new service to Miami (MIA). Along with O’Hare, these new destinations are very indicative of the times considering Southwest maintains hubs at secondary airports at all of these metro areas. These new cities are meant to be purely spokes for Southwest, focusing purely on the local market and tourism.
Southwest is now also venturing into smaller cities like Savannah, GA (SAV) and Jackson, MS (JAN), in addition to COS. Previously, the airline believed that some of these markets were just far too small to sustain a Southwest operation of at least 10 flights per day, but are now reconsidering heavily due to the pandemic.
Southwest Airlines has been flipping their own script in recent months, and it is certain that there will be even more excitement to come.
Featured Photo: Southwest Boeing 737-700 (Credits: Kendrick Dlima)