Topic of the Week: Southwest Schedule Changes


Southwest rolled out its latest schedule extension this week, and along the way it decided to axe some flights. Boise and Philly are hardest hit losing three and four nonstop short haul routes respectively. What’s your take on these moves?

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36 comments on “Topic of the Week: Southwest Schedule Changes

  1. Not surprised. In BOI/GEG they are trying to compete with two flights a day against QX which is flying 6 (BOI) -16 (GEG) flights. While QX uses the Q400 turbo prop, both of those routes are short enough that at least for me, it doesn’t really matter to me if I’m on a jet or prop. I will miss the fact that WN will keep QX in check on their prices. I also can’t imagine its too fuel effecient to power up that jet for a 350-500 mile trip, just not enough cruise time to make up for that take off fuel burn.

  2. I can see some of the markets being dropped, how big is Manchester-Las Vegas and PHX-PVD, what were those one flight on Saturday maybe (I really don’t know).

    In the northwest you can tell that Alaska is beating them so instead of fighting they just go away.

    But I do give them credit for posting a list of markets nonstop service is dropping. Airlines are always quick to broadcast new service but keep dropping service hush hush.

    1. Southwest is actually quite good about posting every single change in each schedule. Follow them on and you’ll see a post when the schedule comes out. They put up a PDF file like this showing every single change.

      Oh, and I imagine Manchester to Vegas and Providence to Phoenix aren’t very big, but those were their main gateways to the west coast. It’s now a lot easier to go via Chicago to many west coast cities than it used to be, so there probably just isn’t enough demand to sustain those markets.

      1. You can imagine anything – but the reality is that the Manchester to Vegas flights, both zero stop and through PHX – were always either full or 90%. Also, changing planes in MDW or DEN in the wintertime introduces the weather cancellation risks. SWA dropped the ball as far as its New England customers are concerened.

    1. Can’t imagine they would hold on to unprofitable routes from a merger in the 90’s. They must have been profitable or those Morris Air routes would have been gone long ago…right?

  3. It was only pride that kept those SEA-GEG and SEA-BOI flights going all these years….their load factors weren’t very good and they couldn’t compete with QX’s frequency. You don’t see SW raise the white flag very often…seems that they have a new attitude towards maintaining money-losing routes.

  4. Obviously they are surrendering to Delta too by dropping the BOI-SLC flights. I am surprised to see them cut out so much service at BOI. If the SEA flights got axed, the PDX ones could be in jeopardy too. Alaska/Horizon has a lot of flights on that route too. I wonder if Southwest will leave the city altogether.

    1. Would be interesting to see if BOI dies or if it thrives when they’re able to introduce lower capacity 717s out there. Regardless, Southwest has just never been able to crack the Pac NW. I mean, you still can’t fly from the LA Basin to Portland or Seattle. Alaska is a very tough competitor.

  5. I see the Pac NW changes as a two issues: SEA vs. PDX and BOI itself.

    WN has never been able to build the SEA short haul routes (BOI and GEG). The QX shuttle and SEA Mileage Plan strength clearly favor AS/QX. But to be honest, neither has AS been able to grow those routes as well beyond the few AS jets that are currently in the market. PDX, however, seems to be an open market as AS, WN, and others successfully compete.

    BOI overall is an interesting case. CO entered and left. AA entered and then adjusted to Eagle service to LAX. QX closed down a regional hub. AS mainline has come and gone many many times. Expressjet came and left. F9 is seasonal. Passenger stats look flat year over year. It just looks like a mature market and I have to believe WN found other markets where it will have a higher ROI in.

  6. Southwest is deploying its resources where they will be more profitable instead of keeping marginal service for the sake of market share. It’s been doing this consistently; and especially now when the industry has little room for meaningful organic growth. Southwest merged with / bought out AirTran when it realized that consolidation, not internal expansion, was the most viable way to grow in any meaningful way given the maturity of the airline industry. Maybe Southwest’s ability to adapt to changing market trends is part of why it’s been so consistently profitable over the years?

    1. Desert Ghost says WN realised that “consolidation, not internal expansion, was the most viable way to grow in any meaningful way given the maturity of the airline industry.” I disagree. Their next move could be nonstops on more routes, including new transcons. WN already operates Las Vegas nonstops, for example, to Albany, Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Orlando, Philadelphia, Providence and Tampa. These could be labeled niche markets of a sort, but they’re also doing BAL-LAX.

      1. The question is where will those routes come from. Will new flights be added to the existing schedule with newly acquired aircraft; or will flying be shifted from somewhere else? Given WN’s recent history, I vote for the latter. Without AirTran’s added capacity your “growth” scenario (which could very well happen) wouldn’t be possible. That’s the point I was trying to make. Maybe I didn’t phrase it as well as I should have.

  7. when will DCA see WN ? this will be a huge game changer at DCA.i predict great success for WN there..a very crafty move into the tight DCA market..

    1. I don’t know that it will. There would be too much capacity in the region. BWI is essentially a hub and located about 40 miles from DCA. DCA is about 30 miles from IAD which already has service. North of BWI there is PHL which has a good amount of competing US service. PHL is about 100 miles away from Baltimore. That would be 4 airports in 130 or so miles.

      Adding service to a slot-restricted, presumably expensive airport is not a good idea. To make any impact, they would need more slots than they would get. The perimeter restrictions throw another wrench into the machine.

    2. I don’t think it will be a game changer because Southwest simply can’t get enough slots to have a huge presence. I think AirTran has 12 slot pairs and the only real promise for more is the 8 that will be divested as part of the Delta/US Airways swap. And there’s no guarantee that Southwest would get those.

  8. It means that US and AS know how to protect a hub. The days of SW coming in and instantly dominating a hub are over, now the competitors know how to fight. I don’t know how they are going to compete in ATL.

  9. As a traveler based in Philly, I can understand why Philly is losing out: Philly is notorious for its delays and these short flights are often delayed the longest to allow the long hauls to clear out.

    I remember checking in for a PIT-PHL at about 6pm on a bad weather day. They put me the 10am flight that didn’t fly until nearly 10pm. This has to wreak havoc with the high utilization that WN tries to achieve.

    Some of the same is going on with MHT and PVD, but I can also tell you that since their BOS service has started, these flights are nearly empty. It’s bad for me since MHT and PVD are more convenient for where I need to go, but there’s probably a lot more volume to BOS.

  10. the thing Washingtonians love more than a bargain price is convenience. No one living in town or the “close in” burbs like me ever wants to go to IAD or BWI when they can fly out of DCA…we even will tolerate a plane change just to be able to leave from DCA and be “home” when we return…To be able to fold into the WN route map with competitive prices and reliable service is VERY attractive. We’ll readily stop in Nashville or St Louis or anywhere in the heartland to get to the west if we can leave from DCA rather than IAD.. I have even flown to ORD to fly to Europe rather than leave from IAD so that when i return, once I am home, I am HOME!

      1. why DCA over IAD? Traffic can be perilous to and from Dulles, especially in the dark early evenings of winter with bad weather. so the forty mile trip is more often than not, much longer and your suggestion of 45 minutes one waycan be MUCH longer and much more frustrating with traffic…. a friend can always drop you at DCA, but a trip to IAD is another matter..and having a friend or loved one pick you up at DCA is also a big timesaver for everyone.. Inside, Dulles can be terribly congested..and if your flight is delayed or canceled, you’re stranded in the desert.. Customs can be much smoother and faster at ORD than IAD.. There’s a big dent in time saved just in these aspects.. So though it may take a little more time, the potential for smooth travel is enhanced..the eventual train link to Dulles will be an improvement, but now I read that the want to put the train platform far away from the terminal..

        1. Well, according to federal statistics, ORD has more delays than IAD.

          But I guess it’s a matter of personal preference.

          The train to Dulles will certainly help.

  11. I am a little surprised to see some of the PHL cuts, especially PHL-PIT. It does make sense in several ways though: they have a hard time competing with ~10x daily on US, mostly smaller E170s, they have other connection points such as BWI or MDW, and they basically have to go big or go home, since one of Southwest’s big selling points is high frequencies.

  12. According to some of the better Wall St analysts (e.g. Gary Chase at Barclays), Southwest has been losing its *ss in PHL for years. It turns out that it’s hard to compete at another major airline’s hub, even when that major airline is one of the less strong, like US Airways. Moreover, it’s been widely reported that US Airways has finally cracked the operational problems that plagued it at PHL — if that’s true, then US Airways is presumably even harder to compete against in that airport.

    Perhaps this is an indication that Southwest is finally beginning to throw in the towel at PHL. It has many other issues to deal with and opportunities to grasp.

    1. That’s what I find myself wondering. Southwest clearly has kept its growth focus in the west on Denver, and it seems that Atlanta will be the main focal point for eastern growth when the merger moves further along. I imagine that Philly might just not be worth it with BWI doing well and a growing (but small) presence in Newark bracketing.

        1. Agree with this comment – not only is SW becoming more of a hub and spoke carrier, but they are entering more and more congested airports. The distinctions between SW and other legacy carriers is eroding.

      1. There’s no way DEN is a major moneymaker for WN. Why do they keep focusing their growth there? It seems like a moneylosing strategy.

  13. It will be interesting to watch Southwest in ATL. The Airtran system will most likely not stay in place as we know it. Southwest may well move equipment and personal to airports where it knows it can make money. They have high operating costs already and Atlanta is not a “low cost” airport.

  14. My two cent about BOI: it’s a fairly senior station and I bet that their payroll costs are too high to support marginal flights. When the flights were cut in the SLC and SEA markets, I think that they lost the higher paying business travelers as the flight times were not convenient enough – these travelers went to AS and DL. The loss of BOI and RNO is hard to figure. My best guess is that the economy continued to erode traffic between these two cities – things must have been bad since WN had no competition on the route.

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