Southwest Airlines plans to flesh out its schedule from Newark Liberty International airport by year-end after unveiling new flights to Chicago Midway and St. Louis scheduled to begin on 27 March.
Regulators required that United and Continental relinquish 18 slots pairs at Newark in order for the carriers to receive US Justice Department approval for their merger. Southwest reached an agreement with the airlines to lease the slots at Continental's Newark hub.
The initial roll-out at Newark includes six daily nonstop flights to Chicago Midway and two to St. Louis, which leaves 10 slot pairs remaining for additional flights. Speaking at Southwest's annual media day on 28 October, Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly told attendees to expect to hear more service announcements about Newark by the end of 2010.
Combining the flights from Newark to Midway with its existing LaGuardia-Midway service, Southwest will offer a total of 11 daily flights from the New York area to Chicago. While no other carrier offers New York-Midway service, schedules in Innovata show American offers mainline service from LaGuardia to Chicago O'Hare, and United offers both mainline and Express service with Embraer E-170 family aircraft operated by Shuttle America.
Southwest faces direct competition with Continental on the St. Louis-Newark pairing. Continental's regional partner ExpressJet offers multiple daily flights with Embraer ERJ-135s/140s/145s.
Explaining the rationale behind Southwest's selection of St. Louis as an initial destination from Newark to ATI, carrier executive vice president for strategy and planning Bob Jordan says St. Louis is a strong connecting point for Southwest destinations in the South Western and Western regions of the USA. "Particularly after we added back the flights American pulled down a little over a year ago." He also cites strong local New York-St. Louis business traffic.
Jordan also explains that "it [St. Louis] would also, if we choose to, it would allow us to build connecting Dallas traffic as well".
With more destinations scheduled to be unveiled Jordan says: "You're not seeing our whole service pattern."