Southwest Airlines has been on a growth trajectory since the start of the crisis. The airline has announced a slew of new routes across the United States, including several cities on its route map. Recently, the airline announced new flights out of Houston-Bush, Jackson, Long Beach, and others. Here’s a look at the new routes and what they mean for the carrier.
The new routes
From April 12th, 2021, Southwest Airlines is adding new flights out of Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH):
- Two daily nonstop flights to Chicago-Midway (MDW)
- Six daily nonstop flights to Dallas-Love (DAL)
- Three daily nonstop flights to Denver (DEN)
- Three daily nonstop flights to Nashville (BNA)
- Four daily nonstop flights to New Orleans (MSY)
From June 6th, 2021, Southwest Airlines is also returning to Jackson, Mississippi:
- Three daily nonstop flights to Atlanta (ATL)
- One daily nonstop flight to Baltimore (BWI)
- Three daily nonstop flights to Houston-Hobby (HOU)
Out of Long Beach, Southwest is growing its flight schedules from March 11th:
- One daily flight to Houston (HOU), then growing to two daily flights after April 11th
- One daily flight to Chicago (MDW), then growing to two daily flights after April 11th
- One daily flight to St. Louis (STL)
- One daily flight to Reno (RNO)
- One daily flight to Dallas-Love (DAL)
Previously announced service to Honolulu (HNL) from Long Beach (LGB) will also begin on March 11th.
Southwest is also growing out of Miami (MIA) from March 11th:
- Twice-daily nonstop service to Nashville (BNA)
- Twice-daily service to Denver (DEN)
From Sarasota (SRQ), Southwest will offer flights to Columbus (CMH), Indianapolis (IND), and Pittsburgh (PIT). All of these flights are Saturday-only services starting on March 13th.
As for international routes, Southwest is resuming nonstop flights from March 11th on the following routes:
- Houston (HOU) to Cozumel (CZM) with daily nonstop service
- Houston (HOU) To Montego Bay (MBJ) with daily nonstop service
- Chicago (MDW) to MBJ with daily nonstop service
- Columbus (CMH) to Cancun (CUN) with Saturday-only service
- San Antonio (SAT) to Cancun (CUN) with Saturday-only service
New nonstop international services include daily nonstop flights between Phoenix and Cancun from March 11th.
A hub-and-spoke network continues to develop
Hub-and-spoke operations have not always been in Southwest’s playbook. However, amid the ongoing crisis, the airline is turning to this familiar playbook in the industry.
There are advantages to the hub-and-spoke network. It gives Southwest a better chance at filling its aircraft, but it also helps with aircraft scheduling and consolidating resources. Some of Southwest’s largest “hubs,” including HOU, MDW, DAL, DEN, BNA, and BWI, continue to get new nonstop services. From these points, customers can connect onwards to many destinations, mostly in the United States.
Aircraft availability is a big part of this
Southwest Airlines spent the last year or two in an aircraft deficit position. Stemming from the MAX crisis, Southwest suffered a quick and cruel capacity crunch. Now in an aircraft surplus position, Southwest is going on adding plenty of new cities to its route network.
Adding new cities also works for Southwest since it is a bid to get as much new revenue as possible and fill up more of its aircraft. Its CEO highlighted new routes as a way to survive the crisis.
Southwest’s recovery continues
Southwest Airlines was hit, but not as hard early on. This was because, in the first quarter, most of the hit to demand came on long-haul international routes and then started to hit markets like New York. By April, however, demand was obliterated across the entire US.
From that point onwards, Southwest had a few things going for it. It had a giant fleet of efficient narrowbody aircraft, strong brand recognition and loyalty, and a mostly domestic network.
However, it does not need to fly the same frequencies it did before, so it is now turning to using those aircraft to add new frequencies and cities.
The other thing to keep in mind is the MAX recertification. Southwest will not be flying the MAX until the second quarter of 2021, which will roll around from April and onwards. By then, heading into the busy summer season, expect Southwest to add back more flying, but also look at opportunities to grow its network. It still has plenty of white spaces in its network to target.
Couple this with continued 737 MAX deliveries from Boeing, and 2021 could be a good year for new Southwest routes.
Are you glad to see Southwest Airlines adding new routes? What new cities or routes do you want Southwest to add? Let us know in the comments!