Southwest Airlines add 6 routes, 2 new cities in latest network expansion

Feb 25, 2021

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The route-map adjustments just keep coming.

The latest shake-up comes from Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, which just announced six new routes and two brand-new destinations launching in May 2021.

Southwest will begin flying to its eleventh airport in Florida — Destin/Fort Walton Beach (VPS) — from four of its largest bases. Daily nonstop service will commence on May 6 from Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Dallas-Love Field (DAL) and Nashville (BNA) with a total of five flights in each direction.

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Just one month later, on June 6, Southwest will add another daily service to VPS from Chicago/Midway (MDW).

If you’d rather hike and explore national parks than lounge on the Florida beaches, Southwest still has you covered. The carrier will launch its first flight to the state of Montana on May 27, when it touches down in Bozeman (BZN).

The carrier will fly two daily flights each way from both Denver (DEN) and Las Vegas (LAS) when service commences. The carrier will boost the Denver-Bozeman connection to four daily flights each way come June 6, just in time for the peak summer demand.

All the new flights are already on sale, with fares started at $39 to Bozeman and $69 to Destin.

Southwest’s expansion to two predominantly leisure destinations follows a mid-pandemic strategy of trying to capture the pandemic-weary traveler looking for an outdoor-friendly escape.

These so-called “sun-and-fun” cities have seen significant growth in airline service, despite the pandemic. Cirium schedules show that U.S. airlines are slated to operate nearly 30% more flights to the Florida panhandle city in March 2021 compared to the same month in 2019.

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All the major U.S. airlines, especially American and United, have recently added or boosted flights to Destin. Flyers seemingly can’t get enough of the Florida beaches.

Bozeman is also taking off (literally and figuratively). It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., and just keeps getting new airline service. American Airlines recently added a new Phoenix-Bozeman service. During the course of the pandemic, Alaska, Allegiant and United all boosted service or added new flights to Bozeman.

Bozeman is one of the major gateways to Yellowstone National Park and other nearby outdoor areas. Southwest’s betting that it can capture its share of flyers looking to experience a mid-pandemic adventure. The carrier is touting that it’ll soon offer one-stop service to the southern Montana city from more than 50 airports.

Q&A with TPG: Southwest CEO Gary Kelly chats about his legacy, new cities and change fees

Since March 2020, Southwest has been busy adding new pins to its route map and boosting service to airports across the country. Not only has the carrier doubled down on capturing leisure traffic, but it’s also pushed into mega-hub airports that it had avoided for so long.

The carrier has added flights to Chicago/O’Hare (ORD), Houston Intercontinental (IAH) and Miami (MIA) to help bolster its position as it looks to recover from the pandemic.

Growth mode: Southwest Airlines is getting more gates at Denver Airport

All told, Thursday’s announcement adds two cities to the 14 new destinations that Southwest has added since the outset of the pandemic: Chicago O’Hare (ORD); Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH); Jackson, Mississippi (JAN); Savannah, Georgia (SAV); Miami and Sarasota in Florida; Fresno (FAT), Palm Springs (PSP) and Santa Barbara (SBA) in California; Colorado Springs (COS), Montrose/Telluride (MTJ) and Steamboat Springs (HDN) in Colorado; Hilo, Hawaii (ITO); Cozumel (CZM) in Mexico.

Featured photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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