Southwest Airlines Intends To Add Three More Cities To Network

Southwest Airlines on Monday announced it plans to add three new destinations to its route network. Starting later in 2021, the airline is adding Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Eugene, Oregon; and Bellingham, Washington to its route network. This will take the airline’s overall newly added airports since the start of the crisis to a whopping count of 17.

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is adding three new cities to its expanding route network. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest adds three new cities

The three airports Southwest plans to add to its network are Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) in South Carolina, Eugene Airport (EUG) in Oregon, and Bellingham International Airport (BLI), in Washington. No official start dates for any routes have been revealed yet, but the airline has shared some details about when it could launch the services.

Myrtle Beach is a summer golfing destination, so the airline wants to launch these flights in time for the summer. This would likely happen in mid-to-late May or early June, at the latest.

Southwest plane
Warm-weather travel is in relatively high demand right now. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Though only two hours south of Portland, Eugene is an airport that serves a growing city that could use some additional services. Without a large presence of low-cost carriers at the airport, Southwest could make a splash here. The airline is targeting flights here in the second half of 2021.

The last one is Bellingham International Airport. If you have never heard of it before, you are forgiven. The airport is located north of Seattle, near the Canadian border. Bellingham is considered a low-cost alternative to Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air serve the airport. Allegiant mainly targets low-fare leisure travelers looking to fly out of or to Vancouver but who want to avoid the expensive YVR. Allegiant is the largest airline out of BLI.

As for when Bellingham services would start, that could be based on when the US-Canada border opens for leisure travelers. With this border closure continuing to extend, Southwest will likely operate these flights in the late summer or beyond, unless things change before then, which would fit in with the airline’s expectations to launch these flights in the second half of 2021.

Southwest Getty
Southwest Airlines has used its aircraft surplus position to expand its network. Photo: Getty Images

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Where will Southwest fly?

Southwest brands itself as a massive point-to-point carrier, with over 70% of its passengers flying a nonstop route 2020. However, the airline’s recent destinations have all received connections to Southwest bases.

Eugene and Bellingham will likely be connected to Southwest’s western bases. This would include cities like Oakland and Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Myrtle Beach would be ripe for flights to bases like Atlanta, Baltimore, and Nashville.

Southwest planes
Expect Southwest to connect these destinations to some of its bases. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Retreating slightly to a hub-and-spoke model helps Southwest add these new cities with a little more buffer to fill up these flights. Overall, travel demand is depressed, so offering more connections gives Southwest a better chance at filling up its planes. Expect flight schedules for these three cities to go up in the next few weeks.

A whopping 17 new airports

With these three new airports, Southwest has announced a total of 17 new airports since the crisis began, with most of those services already starting. Recent additions to the network, Steamboat Springs and Telluride, are getting a boost in service, with flights continuing through the summer of 2021.

The strategy to add new cities and airports to the route network seems to be going well for Southwest. Photo: Southwest Airlines

This week, on March 11th, coinciding with the return of the Boeing 737 MAX to operations with Southwest, the airline will launch flights to Colorado Springs, Savannah and starting flights from Long Beach to Hawaii.

For Southwest, adding new city pairs is a necessary way to survive the crisis. This is a continuation of that strategy, and, so far, it seems like it is paying off for the airline. Certainly, these three destinations are ones to watch, but the most interesting one by far is Bellingham, and only time will tell how that turns out for Southwest.

Are you glad to see Southwest Airlines announce service to these three new airports? Which of them will you fly to or out of? Let us know in the comments!