Southwest’s scalpel: scattered pockets of pain

132892050_90fbd0da9b.jpgSouthwest has finally published its winter schedules, starting January 11, and it’s taking about 6% out of the system – the airline’s deepest cuts in a long time, although company spokespersons are saying that the carrier may add some of the flights back in March. Southwest had for a long time aimed at growth in the 8-10% annual range, but it has slowed that rate to just 4% in 2008 and may be flat for all of 2009. In all, the airline’s new schedule will eliminate 196 flights system wide and add six. That’s still a softer swipe than other carriers are taking to their schedules, such as United’s 16% cut or American’s 12%, and if you look very very closely, you really can’t find a pattern to the trims except that some very early and very late flights will end, according to scheduling manager Bill Owen. 


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Chicago Midway will take the deepest cuts, losing a net of 22 departures to 20 cities, followed by Baltimore/Washington (BWI) with a net loss of 13 departures. Las Vegas loses 12 departures, and Phoenix and Nashville will each drop 10 departures. The Ontario airport in Southern California suffers when Southwest, the carrier with 53% of its flights, cuts three daily non-stops (to Las Vegas, Sacramento, and Phoenix). Next month is also when two other airlines also leave Ontario, which until recently had high hopes of becoming a real reliever for LAX. ExpressJet ends its branded flights nationwide, including its Ontario operation, and JetBlue, which will end its once-daily flight from Ontario to New York JFK.

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