Southwest’s Next City is Boston

Schedule Changes, Southwest

In case it wasn’t clear, the days of Southwest heading to secondary airports are over. Next stop? Boston. Flights begin, well, we don’t really know that. The airline has once again announced a new city/partnership without releasing any details (LaGuardia? WestJet? Anyone?). But, whenever it happens, Southwest Flies to Bostonit’ll be a small, two gate operation to start.

I’m a little surprised by the choice. While Islip is in no way a decent substitute for a New York City airport, Providence in the south and Manchester in the north have done a fair job over the years of pulling traffic from Boston. They stand to be the biggest losers in this announcement, and I have to think that they will end up losing flights, even if the Boston operation remains small.

Boston is the newest destination from Virgin America (though unless we see some highly unlikely transcons, they aren’t trying to compete with them), it’s one of JetBlue’s biggest locations, and AirTran has a strong presence, especially on routes that Southwest is most likely to enter (twice daily to Midway and seven times daily to Baltimore). So there’s plenty of low fare competition on many routes, but clearly that’s not stopping Southwest.

If they really are hell bent on serving every big city, as it seems, I’m surprised that Atlanta wasn’t next on the list. It’s THE southern city and it has nothing from Southwest closer than Birmingham, 150+ miles away from town. That city seemingly would bring more benefit to the Southwest system. I’d say maybe AirTran was driving them away, but they’re likely to be dropping right on top of AirTran with this Boston announcement as well.

Either way, I’m done guessing Cincinnati, Memphis and the usual suspects for new Southwest flying from now on. I think we’ll see them at Washington/National, Atlanta, and Miami if they keep this up. I just hope one of these days we start to get some details on their announcements.

[Original image from Eric F Savage via Flickr]

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7 comments on “Southwest’s Next City is Boston

  1. Hey Brett: If SW does not buy AirTran to get into ATL, I bet they’d consider Chattanooga, which is only about two hours north of ATL and only an hour from much of the wealthy northern arc of Atlanta suburbs. It’s a nice, modern, easy to use airport.

  2. Chattanooga is a secondary airport contrary to the recent WN strategy. ATL and CLT would loom large owing to their current strategy, with CVG and MEM being the next echelon of obvious possibilities. DCA is tough because it is so slot constrained and makes it much less likely. FLL is so close to Miami, there isn’t too much benefit of being closer as they are only 12 miles apart. If Air Train ever floundered, a Southwest purchase would make a lot of sense, bolstering BWI and Florida, and adding ATL and an expanding MKE presence. Air Train flies to a lot of little cities such as Branson that are very far off of Southwest’s usual radar though.

  3. DCA? Probably not. BWI is too close. (Unlike ISP/JFK/LGA/EWR, BWI is a viable alternative to DCA. It’s just a short commuter rail, bus ride, or shuttle trip away.) The BWI operations are too large to fit in any slots that are likely to open up anytime soon in DCA.

  4. While adding SFO, MSP and now Logan show that Southwest is willing to go into the big main airports, I wouldn’t assume that will be the only cities they’ll be adding. It seems a bit like pointing to some new Walmart store in a big city and assume they won’t be adding stores in smaller towns.

    As for Boston, it’ll be interesting to see what routes they choose and how it affects other airlines. Could this be yet another step in moving in on shuttle operations on the east coast a bit like they’ve being in California?

  5. Allen – The shuttle idea is possible, but they’d immediately be at a severe disadvantage since they only have a handful of slots at LaGuardia.

  6. Maybe a handful is all they need in this current environment. Hourly service in any market during this Polar Bear economy makes about as much sense as hot sauce in a dry sauna.

  7. I’m surprised by Boston too. I’ve done plenty of trips to Boston via PVD and MHT and it’s a little inconvenient to downtown Boston but not seriously so. They already more or less “cover” this market. Compare with how they didn’t come near MSP until this March (OMA is the nearest SWA airport to MSP… a 6 hour drive.) I’d sure expect ATL on the short list, and well before any of the heavily served yet not huge city hubs like CLT, CVG, and MEM.

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