Southwest’s New Non-stop Flights
Starting Feb. 12, 2012, Southwest Airlines will begin 15 daily nonstop flights between Atlanta and five cities: Baltimore, Chicago Midway, Denver, Houston Hobby and Austin. This will not replace any of the flights already offered by AirTran, which Southwest merged with earlier this year (the carriers continue to operate independently until federal regulators give the final okay). It does however, add a new city to the duo’s repertoire since AirTran does not offer flights to Austin.
Who Will Benefit from New Non-stops
Business Travelers: The new Southwest non-stop flights from Atlanta are as follows: 2 to Austin; 2 to Denver; 3 to Houston; 4 to Baltimore, and 4 to Chicago. My take is that Southwest, a big favorite with leisure travelers, hopes to spur demand to increase its share of the higher-paying business travel market. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly began his airline’s offensive this week when he spoke to business executives in Atlanta, longtime headquarters and stronghold of Delta Air Lines:
“Here in Atlanta, our fully refundable, walk-up fares will be, on average, more than 30% lower than anything currently in these markets.” –Gary Kelly in USA Today
Leisure Travelers: This kind of launch is a little unusual for Southwest; historically, when the low cost carrier enters a new market, it does so aggressively, by slashing prices; in this case, that sort of entry is tempered by the fact that most of these cities are already served by AirTran which has a similar low fare model but passengers in two cities will reap pricing benefits:
- Austin: No nonstop flights from Atlanta from either AirTran or Southwest (until Feb.)
- Denver: Only 3 nonstop flights via AirTran (until Feb.)
The other cities may see only a moderate price break, as the legacy carriers that already fly there are pretty competitive.
Southwest Launches Airfare Sale to Kick-off New Routes
Southwest is currently offering fares from $79+ to $99+ between Atlanta and the five new cities, but you must book by Sept. 5. These fares are good for travel from Feb. 12 through Mar. 9, 2012. The competition though, is keeping up to an extent; we’ve already seen price matching by Delta and Frontier on the Atlanta-Denver route, on sale for $99+ each way (taxes and fees not included).