Where Is Southwest Adding Flights?

Southwest Airlines | Image by Ryan Fletcher/Shutterstock

Despite a rocky finish to 2022, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is expanding flights to get the company’s flight schedule back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.

Southwest’s daily flight schedule will top out at nearly 4,400 daily flights by July, including more than 200 flights out of its hub at Dallas Love Field Airport, according to the Dallas Business Journal.

The company also will have more than 300 daily flights out of Denver International Airport, the DBJ reported.

COO Andrew Watterson said last month on the Q4 earnings call that the airline expects to be operating at 90% compared to pre-pandemic levels come summertime. Furthermore, he suggested that its network will be restored by the end of the year.

Considering that Southwest added 18 new markets during the pandemic, the company may well be on its way.

By August, Southwest will have 131,178 flights scheduled, a 7.6% increase year-over-year, according to the DBJ.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said on the Q4 earnings call that the growth is “low risk.” This is because it is focused on market depth by adding flights where the airline already is the leader in market share and has an established customer base.

The announcement comes at a time when Southwest Airlines’ network viability and tech infrastructure have been called into question after being forced to cancel over 16,700 flights in December, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Southwest has addressed its tech infrastructure woes by announcing a $1.3 billion investment in upgrading its technology, according to prior coverage from The Dallas Express.

Still, Southwest maintains its growth strategy and will hire thousands of new employees this year.

“We were appropriately staffed for our 2022 flight schedules, including the holidays, and we continue hiring this year to be appropriately staffed for our 2023 flight schedules,” Jordan said on the Q4 earnings call.

“Our plans call for adding over 7,000 new employees in 2023, which is actually a decrease of nearly 40% from 2022 hiring levels … we believe we are well prepared to execute our network restoration plans this year,” he added.

Southwest has extended its schedule to October 4. The 10 airports that will see the most significant increase in Southwest flights from January to September 30, listed by the DBJ using data from Cirium, are as follows:

Denver – 71,973 flights, an increase of 17.1% year-over-year

Las Vegas – 64,392 flights, an increase of 18.6% (YoY)

Chicago Midway – 59,307 flights, an increase of 12.2% (YoY)

Dallas Love Field – 53,218 flights, an increase of 13.8% (YoY)

Baltimore/Washington International Airport – 53,959 flights, an increase of 12.4% (YoY)

Kansas City – 17,206 flights, an increase of 27.8% (YoY)

Orlando – 31,010 flights, an increase of 13.2% (YoY)

Nashville – 35,511 flights, an increase of 10.9% (YoY)

Atlanta – 26,618 flights, an increase of 14.5% (YoY)

St. Louis – 28,617 flights, an increase of 13.1% (YoY)

Southwest will have 304 flights per day at the Denver airport in July and August. It will be the first time the airline has had over 300 flights at a single airport in company history, according to the DBJ.

“It’s understandable that they will want to add more destinations to their route network, they certainly can increase flight frequencies on existing routes, and they could potentially add cities that do not already have nonstop service,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The Dallas Express.

“Southwest can grow, but it needs to be mindful and to make sure its growth doesn’t get ahead of its people, its ability to operate a reliable schedule, and the technologies the airline is using to operate,” Harteveldt said.

Much of the increased traffic will be to Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles, and Chicago Midway, the DBJ reported.

In Dallas, Southwest will have over 200 flights a day in July and top out at 208 flights per day in August and September. The airline will resume non-stop flights to Philadelphia in April, twice-a-week flights to Reno in June, and weekend flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul in March, and service to Norfolk, Virginia, in April, according to the DBJ.

Southwest will also increase routes between Dallas and other locations like Denver, Houston, Palm Springs, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas, per the DBJ.

“Denver is the airline’s largest hub, Chicago is one of its largest hubs, and of course, Las Vegas is a perennially popular destination, so these are three markets where growth makes sense,” Harteveldt added.

“I believe Southwest learned a lot from its December disruption, [and] I believe Southwest will be acting to ensure its airline will be better,” he continued. “Am I worried about Southwest’s summer growth plans? The answer is no.”

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