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Will Southwest fly to new markets soon?

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The airline is focusing on restoring former destinations after experiencing challenges resulting from expansion over the past few years.

Dallas — The video at the top of this page originally aired on May 12, 2022.The article below was originally Dallas Business JournalWFAA News Content Partner.

It seems everyone wants to know where Southwest Airlines Co. is flying next.

Dallas-based Southwest after COVID-19 shuts down airline industry in 2020 triumphantly returned when the flight resumes. Southwest will enter 18 new markets in late 2020 and into 2021. Cirium data show the airline will serve 20 airports in the fourth quarter of 2019, which it did not serve during the same period.

Many of these markets were entirely new Southwest (NYSE: LUV) destinations such as Palm Springs, California and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Others were expansions in cities Southwest already served, such as Chicago and Houston. For example, Southwest Airlines already serves Chicago Midway International Airport and later added O’Hare International Airport.

As Southwest Airlines enters the holiday season and prepares for 2023, the company’s management remains focused on restoring the network and ensuring operational reliability, rather than expanding into new markets. I’m here.

“We expect good capacity growth next year, but almost all of it will be back in the key Southwest markets,” said CEO Bob Jordan said in a conference call with analysts on Thursday. “These are markets that have borrowed to fund new airport expansion during the pandemic, and have an opportunity to back them up as business demand improves.”

Southwest Airlines expects its network to recover approximately 90% by the summer of 2023, compared to 2019 flight levels in the pre-pandemic market, with a full recovery by the end of the year. Jordan said returning existing markets to full capacity would mean “low-risk growth” as Southwest already ranks top in market share and is a place with an established customer base. rice field.

“I think it’s a lot different than having to put every service into a new market and then develop it,” said Jordan.

The restoration and focus on previous destinations comes after Southwest has experienced challenges during the last few years of expansion.

Southwest Airlines began flying new routes at a time when the airline was just beginning to restore capacity from pandemic shutdowns. But demand is booming across the airline industry, and the Southwest is no exception. Amid staffing shortages from 2021 retirements and acquisitions, events such as thunderstorms have caused Southwest Airlines to cancel or delay thousands of flights.the carrier too Summer schedule republished Over 8,000 flights were cut in April.

Demand is strong so far this year.southwest Reported record revenue of $6.2 billion Q2 increased 10.6% from the same period in 2019. The third quarter also marked his second straight period in which Southwest reported profit and posted quarterly earnings. Leisure demand remains strong throughout the year, and business travel demand has trended upward since Labor Day, management said.

However, challenges persist. The company continues to suffer from a shortage of pilots, even though it plans to hire 1,200 people this year. Overall, Southwest plans to add about 10,000 employees this year.

Southwest Airlines is also facing continued delays in the delivery of 737 MAX aircraft by Boeing. Even if Boeing delivered the planes on schedule, Southwest could not get pilots to fly all the planes due to backlog of training. Southwest Airlines plans to end the year with 768 aircraft.

‘We’re really constrained by pilots,’ says chief commercial officer Andrew Watterson“A lot of what we’re doing for much of the next year is really dictated by pilot training capabilities, not Boeing deliveries.”

Jordan said Southwest wants to avoid reissued schedules and maintain high completion rates with high on-time performance.

So what are the markets in which Southwest Airlines is looking to restore flights? remains and plans to reduce the number of flights. The four airports with projected growth compared to the 2019 period are Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Nashville.

Here are the airports that still have room to recover:

  • Chicago Midway – 18,914 flights are scheduled in Q4, a decrease of 926 flights, or 4.7%, from the same period in 2019.
  • Baltimore Washington International Airport Thurgood Marshall Airport – 16,647 flights, down 2,335 or 12.3%
  • Dallas Love Field Airport – 17,138 flights, 212 fewer or 1.2%
  • Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport – 13,228 flights, 1,283 fewer or 8.8%
  • Auckland International Airport – 9,913 flights, 826 fewer or 7.7%
  • Orlando International Airport – 9,423 flights, 1,217 fewer or 11.4%
  • San Diego International Airport – 9,786 flights, 438 fewer or 4.3%
  • Los Angeles International Airport – 6,706 flights, down 3,417 or 33.8%
  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport – 9,187 flights, 842 fewer or 8.4%
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – 8,349 flights, 1,079 fewer flights, or 11.4%
  • Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport – 8,941 flights, 186 flights, or 2% decrease

Of course, there are plenty of other airports Southwest Airlines is likely to add flights to from this list, such as Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. But this list represents the beginning.

Speculation has already begun that Southwest will look to various destinations in Canada and South America once it returns to expansion mode. Until then, management will continue to focus on capitalizing on the demand it already knows exists.

“We need to continue to restore operational reliability, and we need to man the entire fleet to fly,” Jordan said.

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