Southwest Airlines grows route map again, will add Miami and Palm Springs

Sep 3, 2020

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Southwest Airlines will add two more popular sun destinations to its route map this winter as it looks to give leisure travelers more options during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dallas-based carrier will add Miami (MIA) and Palm Springs (PSP) to its route map by year-end, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told staff in a video message to staff on Thursday. The destinations will join Steamboat Springs, Colorado (HDN), among new additions in 2020.

The markets come as Southwest and other carriers look to add flights to places where travelers are going amid the risk of COVID-19. These are largely outdoor-oriented destinations, including beaches or mountains, each of which are big enticements in Miami and Palm Springs.

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“Adding these specific airports to our route map will bring us access to additional revenue at a critical time,” Kelly told staff. “It matches our available fleet with demand for very popular destinations.”

Kelly has previously said that Southwest will likely be at least a quarter smaller at the end of the year than it was at the end of 2019. This comes as the recovery in air travel amid the pandemic has stalled with flyer numbers hovering at down around 70% year-over-year, according to Airlines for America (A4A) data.

The trade group is pushing for additional federal payroll aid to airlines but warns that traveler numbers are unlikely to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.

Related: US airlines ‘fighting for survival’ with no hope of V-shaped recovery, A4A says

Miami and Palm Springs are interesting additions to Southwest’s map. The former is a high-cost fortress hub for American Airlines that is better known as the gateway to South America than a low-fare airport. Fort Lauderdale (FLL), where Southwest is already one of the dominant airlines, is South Florida’s primary budget airport.

However, the move is less surprising considering how U.S. airlines have push into non-traditional markets during the pandemic. For example, United Airlines is adding 17 routes to Florida that bypass its hubs and JetBlue Airways has added 30 new routes — many in markets where it was a tertiary player pre-pandemic — in an effort to capture more leisure flyers.

Palm Springs is the only large Southern California airport unserved by Southwest. And earlier this week, the airline picked up 17 former JetBlue Airways slots at Long Beach (LGB) airport, further fortifying its strength in the region.

Southwest plans to unveil its “initial flight schedule and service profile” for Miami and Palm Springs soon. It intends to begin year-round flights to both by the end of the year.

Related: Southwest Airlines unveils new Steamboat Springs routes

Featured image courtesy of Denver International Airport.

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