Southwest Inaugurates Flights From Houston-Bush And Santa Barbara


Southwest Airlines has added two airports to its growing domestic network. On Monday, April 12th, the all-Boeing carrier officially inaugurated flights from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA). Coming in with multiple daily flights, the airline landed at both airports with a splash, and represents its commitment to domestic expansion.

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Southwest Airlines has officially landed in Houston-Bush and Santa Barbara. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Expansion in Texas

Houston is not an entirely new city for Southwest, but IAH is a new airport in Southwest’s system, well, somewhat. Southwest served Houston-Bush in its early years, including on its first day of operation on June 18th, 1971. The airline pulled out of the airport a year later. Then, eight years later, Southwest came back to Bush and served the airport from 1980 through 2005.

Now, 16 years later, Southwest is back at the larger and more well-known Houston-area airport. Southwest has a base at Houston Hobby Airport (HOU), where the airline is the dominant carrier with over 160 flights a day to nearly 70 destinations across the US.

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Southwest will start flying to five destinations and grow it to seven in the coming days. Photo: Getty Images.

Meanwhile, IAH will start with over 15 daily flights to five destinations. Initial nonstop service will run to the following destinations:

  • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
  • Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Nashville International Airport (BNA)
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

That is not all Southwest has in store for the airport. Nonstop service to Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) will start on April 17th.

Houston-Bush held a little celebration to mark Southwest’s return to the airport:


A new destination in California

Santa Barbara is the 12th airport in California to join Southwest’s network. Southwest already flies a heavy schedule out of southern California, including Burbank, Los Angeles, Ontario, Long Beach, Palm Springs, San Diego, and Orange County.

Southwest will serve the following airports out of Santa Barbara:

  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK)

Santa Barbara is an ideal Southwest destination. It is a leisure tourist destination, and Southwest coming into the market will give beachgoers more options to visit the city.

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“California One” is a special Boeing 737 livery highlighting California’s importance to the airline’s network. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has been on an expansion spree

Last year, Southwest Airlines announced it would be coming to Palm Springs and inaugurated flights from the city in November of 2020. But, its California expansion does not stop there. Fresno will join the airline’s network soon.

In addition, the airline has already put up flight schedules for services from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Bozeman, Montana; Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, Florida; and Jackson, Mississippi. Two more destinations, Eugene (OR) and Bellingham (WA) will also join the carrier’s network in the second half of 2021.

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Southwest is furthering its footprints in Texas and California with these new routes. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Other cities that have joined Southwest’s network include Savannah, Georgia; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Sarasota, Florida; Chicago – O’Hare, Illinois; Telluride, Colorado; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and Miami, Florida.

A total of 17 destinations will have joined the airline’s route network by the end of the year since the start of the crisis. However, there is no indication that Southwest is done building up its route network, as there are plenty of other options for the airline to serve.

Are you glad to see Southwest come to Houston-Bush and Santa Barbara? Will you fly any of these routes? Let us know in the comments!