Southwest takes #1 spot in St Louis as American ditches hub; adds eight new routes

Image: Southwest no.1
Over-arched: prior to TWA’s passing in 2001 Lambert-St Louis had risen to a hub of over 30m passengers but traffic had declined to 13m last year when it was de-hubbed by American Airlines. Now, a big charge by Southwest has made it dominant and promises a new future of point-to-point services.

Lambert-St Louis International Airport has seen its fair share of network changes over the last 20 years. For many years the airport was a major hub for the legendary TWA. During the mid-to-late 90s traffic grew by 50% from around 20 million to over 30 million passengers in both 1999 and 2000. When TWA collapsed in 2001, American Airlines acquired many of the airline’s assets and maintained a hub though this has gradually been dismantled.

Chart: Lambert-St Louis airport traffic 1985-2009
Source: St Louis Airport
Image: Terminal assignments
Change has come: In December it was announced that “Main Terminal” will become Terminal 1. The “East Terminal” – as used by Southwest – will become Terminal 2. The only scheduled services offered outside of the US are Toronto with Air Canada, USA 3000’s low frequency services to Cancun, Montego Bay and Punta Cana, and AeroMexico charters to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

Based on data for the first 11 months of 2009 total passenger numbers for the year will be around 13 million, 10% down on 2008.

American cuts 30 destinations and closes hub

Last year American reduced its network by 10 destinations, cutting its services from 101 daily departures to 83. This year sees a further reduction to just 36 daily departures and the elimination of a further 20 routes. American will then be operating to just eight destinations non-stop; Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York La Guardia, Seattle and Washington Reagan.

The full list of destinations dropped by American since the summer of 2009 is summarised below. Half of the 30 destinations dropped by American will no longer be served non-stop this summer from St Louis.

Atlanta Fayetteville Milwaukee Oklahoma City San Diego
Austin Hartford Minneapolis Orlando San Francisco
Charlotte Indianapolis Nashville Philadelphia Springfield, MO
Cedar Rapids Jacksonville Newark Raleigh-Durham Tulsa
Dayton Las Vegas New Orleans Richmond Washington
Des Moines Madison Norfolk San Antonio Wichita
Note: Destinations in bold served by other carriers
(Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 June 2010)

Apart from the major legacy airlines and Southwest other carriers serving St Louis include AirTran (to Atlanta, Milwaukee and Orlando) and Frontier (to Denver). Last November Cape Air took over three Essential Air Service (EAS) routes previously operated by Great Lakes Aviation with 19-seat aircraft. The routes to Cape Girardeau (Missouri), Marion (Illinois) and Quincy (Illinois) are now operated by nine seat Cessna 402s.

Lambert-St Louis airport Leading airlines by weekly departures
Source: OAG Max Online for June 2008, June 2009, June 2010
Image: Check-In
This passenger was clearly missing his cake at last Sunday’s launch of Southwest’s Boston services (Minneapolis/St Paul was also inaugurated – see Route News section). We’re told SWA promises something more legendary for the start of six more routes in May.

Southwest adds eight new routes and becomes #1

This week saw the launch of two new services (to Boston and Minneapolis/St Paul) from St Louis, both operated by Southwest Airlines. Both routes are already served by American Airlines and Northwest (sorry, Delta) respectively. In May a further six new routes will be added to Los Angeles (versus American), Nashville, New Orleans, Raleigh/Durham, San Diego and Seattle/Tacoma (versus American). All routes will be served daily with Los Angeles and Nashville served twice-daily. This will bring to 31 the number of destinations served non-stop by Southwest from St Louis. Since last summer flights to Salt Lake City appear to have been axed, though Delta is still operating between the two cities.

Other new services starting this summer include Midwest returning to the Milwaukee market from 1 May and United adding daily flights to San Francisco from 11 February.

Limited international services

The only scheduled services offered this summer outside of the US are daily flights to Toronto with Air Canada, and USA 3000’s low frequency services to Cancun, Montego Bay and Punta Cana. AeroMexico also operates seasonal charters to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

Image: Watchtower
Minoru Yamasaki’s Terminal 1 was opened in 1956 as a “Grand Central Station of Air” with its arching floor to ceiling windows and 36-ft. dome ceilings – now being restored with a new “Arctic White” acoustical coating to improve sound absorption.


  1. DennisF says:

    I’ve seen the decline of Lambert over the years. I remember when TWA and Ozark Airlines had hubs there. A recent visit to St.Louis in Dec 2009 confirmed how much change has impacted this once proud airport. The East Terminal is definitely vibrant compared to what’s going on at the Main Terminal. St.Louis unfortunately became a victim of the greed and excessive waste by the airlines, and AA’s decision to pull out its hub at Lambert is definitely a deathblow to its status, or very close to it.

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