Chicago Midway is Southwest Airlines’ biggest base; 64 destinations served this summer

Chicago Midway Airport is Southwest Airlines’ biggest base

Chicago Midway is Southwest Airlines’ biggest operational base with 64 destinations served, as shown here by Innovata’s FlightMaps Analytics. TEST! Due to our data elves having to zoom in, we have lost three destinations from the airline’s route map. Guess the remaining three airports to win a prize at the end of the story. Clue – they all begin with ‘S’.

Chicago Midway is the world’s 79th busiest airport (2013 rankings), but it is also the biggest operational base for the world’s biggest low-cost carrier, Southwest Airlines, delivering over 7% of its total weekly seats, which are split across a 91-airport network that offers nearly 3.4 million seats per week. In August 2014, the downtown Chicago airport offers nearly 28,000 more weekly seats than the #2 airport for the LCC — Las Vegas — a bigger lead than the near-24,000 seats recorded in August 2013. The gap between first and third-placed Baltimore/Washington has receded over the same timeframe, dropping from over 61,000 weekly seats to nearly 44,000.

Southwest’s biggest operations this month

1) Chicago Midway (MDW); 2) Las Vegas (LAS); 3) Baltimore/Washington (BWI); 4) Denver (DEN); 5) Phoenix (PHX); 6) Houston Hobby (HOU); 7) Los Angeles (LAX); 8) Dallas Love Field (DAL); 9) Oakland (OAK); 10) Orlando (MCO); 11) San Diego (SAN); 12) St. Louis (STL).

Incidentally, the LCC’s top 12 airports have remained relatively unchanged year-on-year, with the top six having maintained their respective positions. However the remaining six airports have been jostling for rank over the past 12 months, with Orlando impressing most, jumping from #13 to #10. The transfer of flights from AirTran Airways to its parent Southwest, will have undoubtedly been a contributing factor in the Florida airport’s rise.

Increasing aircraft size

Southwest’s average seats per movement at Midway has increased from 147.8 to 150.1 over the past 12 months. This is due in part to a reduction in the use of the airline’s 137-seat 737-300s into the airport, as well as an increased use of its 175-seat 737-800s, which have grown from 261 movements last August, to 373 this year. As a result, the share of movements for this larger aircraft type has grown from 16% to 23% during the last year.

Over 20 times bigger than anyone else

To say that Southwest dominates at Midway is perhaps an understatement, as nearly nine out of every 10 seats flown into and out of the airport is on board one of its aircraft. With both American Airlines and United Airlines having built their own respective hubs at Chicago O’Hare, it is therefore not a surprise to see their names omitted from the list of serving carriers.


Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 7 August 2014.

In the past year, Southwest has increased its weekly seats at Midway by only 838, which has seen its share increase marginally from last August’s 87%. With the integration of AirTran scheduled for completion in December, Southwest’s total dominance will be extended still further, with the combined figures for both airlines for this August reaching 91.7%, down slightly from the 91.8% recorded in the same month during 2013.

Over 60 destinations from Midway

For the week being analysed, the LCC offers 64 destinations in total from Midway with an average weekly frequency of 25.4. By contrast, Southwest offers 59 non-stop destinations from Baltimore/Washington with an average weekly frequency of 23.3, and 58 from Las Vegas, with an average weekly frequency of 25.4. Midway’s top 12 routes for the airline represent 38.3% of total weekly flights, up 0.3% from a year ago.

Chart - Southwest Airlines top 12 routes at Chicago Midway

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi w/c 7 August.

Of these top 12 routes, 10 of them are uncompeted. Frontier Airlines does however go head-to-head with Southwest on the Denver route (offering 20 weekly flights), while both Delta Air Lines (46 weekly) and Sun Country Airlines (daily) both provide competition to the LCC on the 562-kilometre sector to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Flights to New York LaGuardia have shown the greatest increase since last August, with an extra 12 weekly flights having been added. Both St. Louis and Nashville have felt the network planner’s knife most severely, with each airport taking a reduction of four weekly flights.

Average sector length greater than Vegas and BWI

The airline’s longest sector from Midway is to San Francisco, which at 2,984 kilometres just pipped nearby Oakland at 2,968. Southwest’s shortest route from its Chicago hub is the 369-kilometre hop to Detroit. The average distance of the 64 network points served from its biggest base is 1,317 kilometres. This distance is marginally longer than that offered at #2 base Las Vegas (1,289 kilometres) and #3 Baltimore/Washington (1,176 kilometres). in the Windy City next month

Chicago will be the host of the World Routes event next month, and will be there producing overnight and on-site its much-loved show daily magazines, crammed full of show news and events and thrust into the sticky mitts of arriving delegates as they chomp their breakfast bagels and coffee. If you want to make sure your company is represented in these fine publications, contact the Editor Marc Watkins ( for Editorial requests and Business Development Manager Jon Lassetter ( for Advertising opportunities.

The three omitted airports from the map were: Seattle-Tacoma, Spokane and San Juan. Prize = free subscription to newsletter! What do you mean you already have that…


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