Southwest continues its march into bigger markets with launch of New York LaGuardia services this week

After 38 years of low-cost, low-fare operations across 33 states Southwest has finally turned up at one of New York’s major airports. Until now the airline had restricted its flights in New York State to offering service from Long Island airport (also known as Islip) from where it serves seven destinations including four in Florida.

New York, New York: An amateur video captures the monumental touchdown at La Guardia – Southwest’s 66th destination. Five daily nonstops to Chicago Midway and three daily to Baltimore/Washington will be served.

The choice of LaGuardia follows the recent pattern set by the airline of picking major airports as its new bases, rather than secondary airports. Its most recent new airports have been Philadelphia (#62), Denver (#63), San Francisco (#64), Minneapolis/St Paul (#65) and now New York LaGuardia. In August Boston will become its 67th airport followed by Milwaukee making it 68 in November. Las Vegas remains the airline’s biggest base offering non-stop services to 56 destinations.

Image: Southwest
Passengers are handed bagels to go…
Chart: Top 15 Southwest Airports
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 10 August 2009 and w/c 5 May 2008

During the last 15 months Denver has been the fastest-growing of the carrier’s airports increasing the number of non-stop services from 23 to 34. During this period the total number of non-stop airport pairs offered by the airline has grown from 432 to 439 while the number of weekly departures has fallen by 6% from 23,572 to 22,145. As a result the average weekly one-way frequency on each route has fallen from 27.3 to 25.2.

Latest monthly statistics provided by the airline for May 2009 confirm that the number of trips flown fell by 4.9% compared with May 2008 while enplaned passengers fell by 6.7%. However, RPMs (Revenue Passenger Miles) fell by just 3.6% as the average length of haul increased by 5.1% from 819 miles to 861 miles.

Only two routes from LGA but many connection possibilities

By choosing Chicago Midway (with five daily flights) and Baltimore/Washington (with three daily flights) as its first two route from LaGuardia, Southwest is opening up one-stop connections to most of its route network as these two airports are ranked second and fourth in terms of most routes among Southwest’s airports. From LaGuardia it will face head-to-head opposition from Delta (with 57 weekly departures) on the Chicago route, and US Airways (with 48 weekly departures) on the Baltimore/Washington route.

When Southwest starts operations at Boston in mid-August the same two airports will also be the first routes served from Logan airport. In November, when the airline starts flights to and from Milwaukee, it will begin with six non-stop destinations; Baltimore/Washington, Kansas, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix and Tampa.


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