Southwest picks Norfolk and earmarks Richmond

Washington DC
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Southwest Airlines has selected Norfolk, Virginia, as its next new city but in an unusual move also has promised to later serve nearby Richmond, Virginia.

The low fares carrier says it will begin daily service to Norfolk International Airport in October, but has not yet disclosed its initial schedule.

The Dallas-based carrier says it also “intends to serve the Richmond International Airport” as part of a strategy to bracket the fast growing mid-Atlantic region. Richmond, located in the middle of the state, is about 90 miles from Norfolk, located in the southeastern corner.

Southwest already serves Baltimore/Washington International Airport and Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina. But the carrier does not yet fly anywhere in the state of Virginia.

Southwest refuses to disclose when Richmond services would start, saying the carrier first needs to complete terminal expansion projects at other airports. The carrier says until these projects are completed it cannot link Richmond with its desired destinations.

Southwest will initially occupy two gates at Norfolk. An airport official says that leaves five more gates still unoccupied. The airport also pledges to construct a new concourse if demand dictates.

The airport official adds that today’s announcement ends a decade-long lobbying effort by the Norfolk community. Scores of airports across the country lobbied Southwest to become the carrier’s next city.

Southwest does not plan to select another city until next year.