Southwest Airlines Announces Largest Route Expansion From Austin

(Article is from Austin Business Journal, copyright belongs to owner)  Southwest Airlines Co., the largest carrier at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, continues to double down on its investments in the Texas capital.

The Dallas-based airline plans to add nine new and returning destinations to its lineup next spring, which will bring Southwest’s offerings at the Austin airport to 46 destinations with up to 105 daily departures, the company announced Sept. 16. That will represent a 57% increase in service compared to what the airline offered in March 2019, prior to the pandemic, a spokesperson said.

Beginning in March 2022, Southwest (NYSE: LUV) will add nonstop service from the Austin airport to Charleston, South Carolina; Midland/Odessa, Texas; and Ontario, California —which currently aren’t offered by any other airline at ABIA — plus service to Columbus, Ohio, and Amarillo, Texas. Southwest will also add international service to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and weekly flights will return to the Florida destinations of Panama City Beach, Sarasota/Bradenton and Destin/Fort Walton Beach, according to the announcement.

ABIA will also rank No. 12 in terms of operations size among the 121 destinations Southwest serves, a spokesperson said.

The local airport has attracted a flood of new flights and major investments from airlines of all sizes since the beginning of the year. Including Southwest’s new additions, more than 60 routes have been announced from airlines since the pandemic began. Many business leaders point to adding nonstop flights as fuel for the Austin-area economy, since it eases travel for executives and tourists, though some experts suggest the local airport needs to up the ante to match the intense growth happening in Austin.

Despite a surge in leisure travel in recent months, airlines nationwide have been tweaking their schedules for the fourth-quarter because of the Delta variant. As of Aug. 30, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport had 21,330 flights scheduled for the last three months of the year. That was down 3.6% from 22,101 scheduled as of Aug. 3 — a more moderate decline than many airports around the country, although steeper than some other big Texas airports.

This isn’t Southwest’s first announcement for 2021, either. Earlier in the year, the airline pledged to add flights to destinations such as Miami, Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Southwest offers more connections through Austin than any other airline. For comparison, American Airlines Group Inc. will be operating 36 nonstop flights by the end of the year, according to ABIA’s website, and Delta Air Lines Inc. offers 10.

In June, 1.37 million passengers traveled through ABIA, compared with nearly 291,600 in June 2020, according to the most recent airport data.

Overall, more than 4.8 million travelers passed through the Austin airport from January to June this year. The airport has also seen more than 50 new nonstop routes announced since the start of the pandemic.