Southwest is #1 US domestic airline but only serves two-thirds of all states

Image: Southwest plane takes off in Las Vegas
It seems highly probable that by the end of 2008 Southwest will have surpassed whatever figure Delta and Northwest combined achieve.

Low-cost legend Southwest last year carried more passengers (101.9 million) on US domestic flights than any other airline and claimed a 15% share of all domestic air travellers. The new combined might of Delta and Northwest transported just over 105 million in 2007 but with network consolidation and relatively low growth it seems highly probable that by the end of 2008 Southwest will have surpassed whatever figure Delta and Northwest combined achieve. What makes Southwest’s performance even more amazing is that it operates from just 64 airports in 32 states.

Image: Southwest Cities & Check in desk
“That’s right, we don’t fly to South Carolina, North and South Dakota, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin or Wyoming…”

That leaves a surprisingly large number of mainland US states that do not have any airports that Southwest serves. These include South Carolina, North and South Dakota, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Image: Southwest Flight attendants running

432 routes served with over 500 aircraft

With its fleet of well over 500 737s Southwest serves ‘just’ 432 airport-pairs. An analysis of the latest schedule data shows that the average weekly frequency on routes across the network is 27.3, roughly equivalent to four daily flights. A comparison with Europe’s largest LCC, Ryanair, reveals that despite operating only around one-third as many aircraft, the Irish airline flies to twice as many airports, operates 50% more routes, carries around half as many passengers and has an average weekly frequency of around 6.3, which is equivalent to less than one daily flight. It is also worth noting that Southwest’s 737-300s and -700s carry just 137 passengers while Ryanair’s 737-800s can carry a maximum of 189 passengers.

Download Southwest’s Airport Analysis Excel Spreadsheet
Click to download Southwest’s Airport Analysis

A more detailed analysis (see Spreadsheet: Sothwest’s Airport Analysis) reveals that Corpus Christi International Airport in Texas is the only airport with just one route operated by Southwest (to Houston). At all other airports Southwest offers at least four non-stop destinations with Las Vegas at the top of the ranking with 55. On average Southwest serves around 14 destinations from each of its airports.

The shortest sector the airline flies is between Fort Myers and Orlando (just 133 miles) while the longest is between Philadelphia and Oakland which clocks in at 2,510 miles (further than from London to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt).


Comments

  1. Andre says:

    Any idea why Southwest only serves 32 states? Your story suggests that they have a lot of growth potential, however it seems that they already fly long haul (2500 miles…) into congested airports like LAX & Denver. I’m surprised that they havent just added more bases in the states that they dont serve, and stick to the short haul routes they began with.

    Excellent site!

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