Southwest Airlines Bets On California With New Routes

Southwest Airlines is adding five new routes to California from this April. The new flights to Santa Barbara and Fresno continue the airline’s expansion amid the crisis and extend the carrier’s growing hub-and-spoke network, which has become more prominent over the last year.

Southwest Airlines has unveiled its flight schedules out of Fresno and Santa Barbara. Photo: Getty Images

Southwest Airlines adds Fresno and Santa Barbara

In mid-December, Southwest Airlines announced it would add flights to two new cities in California: Fresno and Santa Barbara. The carrier has now revealed the initial flight routes out of these cities.

From Santa Barbara Airport (SBA), the carrier will be adding five daily roundtrip flights. One daily flight will operate to Denver, three daily flights will operate to Las Vegas, and one daily flight will be up to Oakland.

From Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT), Southwest is planning four daily roundtrip flights. One daily roundtrip will operate to Denver, and three daily flights will operate to Las Vegas.

Southwest Getty
Southwest Airlines will connect both cities to Las Vegas. Photo: Getty Images

Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, stated the following on the new routes in a press release seen by Simple Flying:

“We’re boldly launching this eagerly anticipated new year by doubling-down on our consistent commitment to California to offer our value and flexibility to now 13 airports in the state. Not only does Southwest Airlines celebrate 50 years of service in 2021, we’re gratefully acknowledging the support of Californians who have made us the largest air carrier of fliers traveling nonstop to, from, and within The Golden State for 20 consecutive years.”

The hub-and-spoke continues to develop

Amidst the industry-wide crisis, Southwest Airlines has believed that adding new city pairs is a way to survive. The calculation for the airline is that, since it has more aircraft than it needs right now, it can add new city pairs, connect new passengers, and keep its planes more full for now and the future.

Just in these new routes, two large Southwest bases are clear: Denver and Las Vegas. Southwest advertises that, with the new flights out of Fresno, customers can connect onwards to more than 50 airports.

Southwest Getty
Southwest is turning to a hub-and-spoke style of network, though not entirely. Photo: Getty Images

In the post-deregulations US aviation landscape, connecting hubs started to grow in prominence. Some of the busiest airports in the US and the world, which include Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD), and Dallas (DFW), among others, are massive connecting hubs for one or more airlines.

Connections are a lower-risk way to add flights to new cities. Where it might be difficult for Southwest to find around 140 people to fly daily between Denver and Santa Barbara, it could find perhaps 10 or so, and then another 130 from connections on a given day.

Southwest has typically avoided this network style, though it is now turning to it because hub-and-spokes make it much easier for airlines to fill planes.

How much more could Southwest grow in California?

Southwest will serve a total of 13 destinations in California by the summer. For the most populous state in the US, Southwest serves a significant number of destinations in the state and is starting to run out of options for expanded service.

California is one of Southwest’s most important states. Photo: Getty Images

There are now more secondary cities for Southwest to consider adding flights to in California. There are plenty of other spots for Southwest to consider outside of California, so Southwest is probably nearing the end of its growth in California. From now on, it will be more likely that Southwest chooses to add more flights rather than new cities.

Are you excited to see Southwest come to Santa Barbara and Fresno? Let us know in the comments!