Southwest Airlines expands again, adds three more cities to its route map

Oct 22, 2020

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Southwest Airlines will add three more cities to its map. That will bring the carrier’s planned total additions next year to five, growth the comes even as Southwest continues to rack up billion-dollar losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dallas-based carrier plans new flights to Colorado Springs (COS), Colorado; Jackson, Mississippi (JAN); and Savannah, Georgia (SAV), by June 2021, Southwest said on Thursday. Southwest had previously served Jackson, but dropped the city in 2014.

The destinations join Southwest’s previously announced new service to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH) that also will begin next year.

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The additions bring the total number of new destinations announced by Southwest to nine since the pandemic first hit the U.S. market in March. While broadening the airline’s reach across the U.S., they also come as overall schedules are well below 2019 levels as air travel remains below half of last year.

“I’m happy to play offense,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said during the airline’s third quarter earnings call on Thursday. He added that the carrier aims to come out of the pandemic gaining U.S. marketshare from competitors.

All nine of the airports Southwest is adding were in the airline’s long-term plans, said Kelly. For example, it was already planning to add Houston Intercontinental — an airport it dropped in 2005 — to its map next year before COVID hit.

Related: Southwest Airlines to add Chicago O’Hare and Houston Bush Intercontinental

In terms of COVID-related service changes, Southwest will resume selling its jets to full capacity on Dec. 1. Since May, the airline has capped the number of seats it sells on its flights in an effort to woo those concerned about social distancing onboard.

In a statement, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said removing seating caps was aligned with “science-based findings” on protecting travelers from the virus onboard aircraft.

Southwest’s move leaves just Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways blocking seats on flights in the U.S. American Airlines, United Airlines and others are selling flights to capacity.

Related: Southwest Airlines won’t block middle seats for Christmas flights

Southwest reported a $1.16 billion net loss in the third quarter. During the three-month period, the airline shrank critical cash burn — or how much it loses on a daily basis — to an average of $16 million a day.

The carrier hopes to shrink cash burn to an average of just $12 million a day during the quarter ending in December. Southwest continues to target breaking even on a daily basis, but said to achieve that it would need revenues to roughly double from the $1.79 billion generated in the third quarter.

Related: Southwest backtracks on a full schedule by year-end after second quarter loss

Featured image by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.




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