Southwest Airlines Bets on New York LaGuardia Following Newark Exit

Jul 26, 2019

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Southwest Airlines has big plans to grow at New York LaGuardia after it ends flights to Newark Liberty this fall.

The Dallas-based airline plans to add seats at LaGuardia (LGA) by shifting flights to its largest planes, the Boeing 737-800 and the 737 MAX 8, once the latter returns to the skies, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Thursday during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

By doing so, Southwest could grow its seats at LaGuardia by as much as 10% to 20% in coming years, added Kelly.

“[New York is] two relatively small operations today that we’ll consolidate into a much more efficient, and arguably larger, operation at LaGuardia,” he said.

Southwest will end flights to Newark (EWR) in November, citing poor economic performance and the ongoing MAX grounding.

Related: Southwest Has Suspended 13 Routes Since Grounding of Boeing 737 MAX

The carrier has just 35 slot pairs at capacity controlled LaGuardia. In aviation vernacular, a “slot pair” is the equivalent of one round-trip flight. So, with 35 slot pairs, Southwest is able to offer 35 daily round-trip flights at the airport.

But while the slots limit Southwest’s ability to add flights at the airport, they do not dictate what aircraft it operates on those flights.

In July, the vast majority of Southwest’s flights to LaGuardia – more than 96% – were scheduled on the 737-700, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. The balance were flown with 737-800 aircraft.

The airline outfits its 737-800s with 175 seats, 32 more than on its 737-700s, its website shows.

Related: The Best Southwest Airlines Credit Card for Family Travelers

Southwest would need to shift about 45% of its LaGuardia flights to the 737-800, with the larger aircraft operating about half of its schedule at the airport, to grow seats by 10% as Kelly said.

Even with a 20% increase in seats, Southwest will be smaller in New York without its Newark flights. The carrier would need to grow seats at LaGuardia by more than 43% to replace all of its Newark capacity, Diio schedules show.

Southwest was one of the first airlines to move into the new Eastern Concourse in Terminal B at LaGuardia in December. The facility is larger than the 1960s-era concourses it replaces, which allows airlines to operate larger aircraft to the airport.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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