One of the largest airlines in the US, Southwest, has announced that it will add new flights to Santa Barbara and Fresno in California from the second quarter of 2021. Like other airlines, the carrier has decided to expand its route network and connect new city pairs to increase revenue.
Southwest plans on adding two new cities to its network
Both of these cities are in California, which is already a major market for Southwest Airlines. Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) and Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) will take the number of airports Southwest serves in California to 13.
The carrier has not outlined specifically from where or when it will start flying to these airports. The plan currently is to launch flights to both cities in the second quarter of 2021, which will run from April through June of next year.
By the time Southwest does launch flights to these two cities, the carrier will be able to capture demand heading into the busy summer season.
Southwest’s Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Vice President, Andrew Watterson, offered the following statement:
“Our arrival in the Heart of California, both on the Central Coast and in the Central Valley, will round out nearly four decades of investment in our California Customers and communities. While other airlines seem to fall in and out of love with the state, we’re focused on increasing the reach of our low fares and flexible policies in places where we expect them to make a difference.”
One of the most recent additions to Southwest’s network was Palm Springs (PSP), which only saw its first Southwest flight arrive about a month ago. Recently, Southwest Airlines also announced an expanded flight schedule out of Long Beach (LGB).
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Where could Southwest fly?
Throughout the crisis, Southwest has done these “intend and announce” new city additions. First, it declares an intention to serve certain cities. Then, usually a few weeks later, the carrier announces where it will fly to these new cities from.
While the airline does not specifically have a hub-and-spoke network, it has been developing one throughout the crisis. In the western United States, the airline has a significant presence in Oakland International Airport (OAK), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS). All of these cities have a decent chance of being connected to one of these airports. Other destinations that may crop up include Denver (DEN), Dallas-Love (DAL), or Houston-Hobby (HOU).
The second quarter of 2021
Southwest has plans to grow in 2021. The carrier will be adding service to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Jackson in Mississippi (JAN) in the second quarter of the year. In the first quarter, new destinations include Colorado Springs (COS), Sarasota (SRQ), and Savannah (SAV).
The second quarter is important for several reasons to Southwest Airlines. First, it anticipates flying its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft again in the quarter, which will free up additional aircraft once retirements are factored in. The carrier will also be adding 35 Boeing 737 MAX jets in 2021, which will replace an equal number 737-700s.
Southwest is sitting in an aircraft surplus position because of the crisis. According to data from Planespotters.net, Southwest has 107 Boeing 737-700s and two Boeing 737-800s parked. While some of those 737-700s will exit the fleet, a decent part of them will likely return to flying by the summertime.
Across the United States, the Pfizer vaccine has started to make its way around the country, and the first vaccinations occurred just this week. Soon, additional vaccines will also come to market. This raises the hope that, when the second quarter of 2021 rolls around, more people will be able to travel safely, and states will lift the restrictions they may have in place.
Are you glad to see Southwest add Fresno and Santa Barbara to its target list? Where do you want the carrier to fly to from these cities? Let us know in the comments!