Aviation News

Southwest Airlines announces major Summer expansion with 36 new routes

Southwest Airlines is increasing services across the United States very rapidly and this time, the airline has announced routes for the summer season.

On 25th March, the Dallas-based carrier announced its latest network expansion, including its Myrtle Beach launch details, seven new routes to Austin and a flurry of nonstop service to other Southwest cities.

Related: Delta Airlines announces 39 new and expanded routes to over 20 new destinations

The move comes as the carrier is ‘add[ing] flights to address closer-in demand for leisure destinations while making foundational additions to our map that position our network for the future’, Andrew Watterson, Chief Commercial Officer, Southwest, says in a statement.

Stylish entry in Myrtle Beach with 10 flights

Southwest announced plans to serve Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, along with two new cities – Bellingham, Washington and Eugene, Oregon – on 8th March, giving it a total of 17 new cities that Southwest has added or announced since the pandemic began to affect the United States.

Southwest is starting flights to 10 destinations from Myrtle Beach. Photo: The Business Journals

Southwest at the time of announcement promised that flights from Myrtle Beach would launch ‘in time for summer vacation’.

True to its word, flights to Baltimore, Chicago Midway and Nashville will begin on 23rd May.

On 29th May, the carrier will start Saturday-only service to Dallas and Pittsburgh, but those routes will expand on 6th June to include Sunday flights to Dallas and five-weekly flights to Pittsburgh on each day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The flights to Atlanta, Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City and St. Louis will launch on 6th June.

Flights out of Myrtle Beach:

  • Atlanta – Daily
  • Nashville – twice-weekly (One daily Sat flight from 23rd May to 6th June)
  • Baltimore – thrice-weekly (Two daily Sat flight from 23rd May to 6th June)
  • Chicago Midway – twice-daily (One daily flight from 23rd May to 6th June)
  • Columbus – 5-times-a-week (No service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
  • Indianapolis – 5-times-a-week (No service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
  • Pittsburgh – 5-times-a-week (No service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; Saturday-only from 23rd May to 6th June)
  • Dallas/Love Field – twice-weekly (Saturdays and Sundays only; Saturday-only from 23rd May to 6th June)
  • Kansas City – twice-weekly (Saturdays and Sundays only)
  • St. Louis – twice-weekly (Saturdays and Sundays only

Some of the flights to Myrtle Beach might be puzzling for some, like the 317-mile hop from Atlanta or the 399-mile flight from Baltimore. Many would-be flyers in those local markets might’ve driven to Myrtle Beach in the past.

Southwest, however, is banking on customers choosing a more convenient flight instead. Plus, with two checked bags included, one of which can be a golf bag, travelers need not worry about added baggage fees.

Watterson in a statement said that ‘for Myrtle Beach, we know the arrival of our two bags fly free – with a golf bag able to count as one of those – will encourage visitors to fly Southwest instead of drive, and consider a quicker trip with us and our value propositions of bags fly free, golf bags fly free, low fares and flexible policies.’

On Thursday, United Airlines also unveiled a major summer network expansion as well, including three new routes to MYR, as the airlines expect travelers to flock to South Carolina’s Atlantic coast.

Related: United announces 29 new point-to-point routes; resumes international routes

Austin is getting increased attention

Austin is getting a lot of love from US carriers. Yeh city has seen some major growth in air service, most recently from American Airlines which has announced 10 new routes from the city. And Southwest plans to offer nonstop service from Austin to a whopping 37 cities this summer. The carrier is adding seven new destinations from the central Texas city.

Southwest is starting flights to 7 new destinations out of Austin. Photo: cntraveler

New flights out of Austin:

  • Sacramento – starting 9th May – Daily (No service on Saturday effective 6th June)
  • Burbank – starting 6th June – Daily (except Saturday)
  • Miami – starting 6th June – Daily
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul – starting 6th June – Daily (except Saturday)
  • Orange County – starting 6th June – Daily (except Saturday)
  • Salt Lake City – starting 6th June – Daily
  • Destin/Fort Walton Beach – starting 6th June – Saturday and Sunday only

As one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, there’s been a steady stream of companies moving into Austin. Plus, with the city’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene, it’s a popular destination for leisure travelers.

Combined, this makes it a lucrative market for airlines, especially as they look to recover from the pandemic.

In Watterson’s words, ‘while other carriers have fallen in and out of love with Austin across the years, we’re continuing to build on nearly 45 years of offering affordable and relevant air service for Central Texans and those who are headed there.’

Related: American Airlines announces 10 new routes from Austin

More nonstop service to other Southwest cities

Southwest is not done just yet. The carrier will also add new flights to a variety of other cities, as it seeks to capitalize on summer travelers looking for a mid-pandemic escape.

The airline is starting three new flights to Bozeman in Montana, which is one of the 17 new cities that Southwest has added or announced since the pandemic began to affect the United States. The carrier will start flights on 6th June and will run them until 16th August. These routes will be joining upcoming daily service from Denver and Las Vegas.

The new cities are out of Bozeman are:

  • Dallas
  • Chicago Midway
  • Phoenix

Bozeman serves as one of the gateways to Yellowstone National Park, and it’s seen explosive growth from airlines vying for travelers seeking outdoor-friendly escapes.

Related: Southwest Airlines announces flights out of Bozeman

Other additions for Southwest include a Colorado-focused expansion in Hayden/Steamboat Springs (HDN) and Montrose/Telluride – two other new pandemic-era cities for the airline. The carrier will fly daily to both airports from Denver between 1st June and 16th August, and will also offer weekend service from Dallas/Love Field during the same time period.

Additionally, starting 9th May, the carrier will start flights on routes such as:

  • Denver-Richmond : Daily
  • Las Vegas-Palm Springs : Daily
  • Miami-St. Louis : Daily
  • Las Vegas-Chicago O’Hare : 4-times-a-week increasing to 6-times-a-week from 6th June

Other new daily flights include Nashville to Islip and Chicago Midway to Portland, which are slated to be operated between 6th June and 16th August.

It’s possible that Southwest will extend these flights beyond 16th August in the coming months when the carrier extends its schedule.

Even more flights on weekends

Many summer travelers plan week-long trips, departing and returning on Saturdays or Sundays. Southwest has six new flights to cater to such passengers, as follows:

  • Charleston-Kansas City : Saturday only
  • Dallas/Love Field-Norfolk : Sunday only
  • Dallas/Love Field-Sarasota/Bradenton : Saturday only
  • Grand Rapids-Sarasota/Bradenton : Saturday only
  • Mileaukee-Destin/Fort Walton Beach : Saturday only
  • Salt Lake City-Tampa : Saturday only

Many of these other point-to-point additions are seemingly aimed in response to competitors. Southwest’s new Milwaukee and St. Louis routes come just weeks after Spirit Airlines announced new service to both cities. Southwest will go head-to-head with Delta on the new Salt Lake City to Tampa route.

Either way, as summer travel kicks into high gear, Southwest will likely have a flight for you.

Featured image by Fortune

What do you think of Southwest’s latest expansion plan? Let me know in the comments section below.

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