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Old 10-22-2020, 06:26 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
6,127 posts, read 6,475,030 times
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https://gazette.com/business/southwe...bb5df6976.html

"Southwest Airlines announced Thursday it will expand service to the Colorado Springs Airport, ending decades of courting by city officials to bring the nation's largest carrier to southern Colorado.

The Dallas-based airline said it would start flying to Colorado Springs in the first half of next year, but didn't say how many flights it would offer to what destinations, nor the exact start date or fares, which it said would be "announced soon." Southwest has served Denver International Airport since 2006 and has grown into DIA's second-largest airline after United, offering 263 daily flights to 70 cities and employing more than 4,300 people. The carrier, the nation's largest by passengers carried, also plans to begin seasonal weekend service to Montrose and Hayden in December.

“As we bring Colorado Springs into the Southwest network, it will give travelers across the country more access to experience the region’s top destinations, education and training facilities, and provide new air service for travelers who have long-desired easy access to our expansive network,” Jason Van Eaton, Southwest’s senior vice president of real estate and government affairs and executive ambassador to Colorado, said in a news release. “We look forward to bringing our value, customer-friendly policies and our world famous hospitality to the Pikes Peak Region as we expand our footprint across the state.”

Colorado Springs officials have tried many times over the years to lure Southwest here, even offering millions of dollars in financial help in 2004 to pay for airport upgrades to accommodate the low-fare giant. Former Mayor Lionel Rivera made attracting Southwest or another low-fare carrier a big part of his 2003 mayoral campaign, leading to the 2004 effort. However, Southwest never arrived, until now.

"Southwest (coming to Colorado Springs) is something we've been hoping for a long time," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said. "This is a big step for Colorado Springs, an indicator that this is a city that is attracting the attention of a big and successful airline. There will be competition that will result in more favorable fares and people will have to elect to take advantage of the convenience, even if it means making a stop to go to New York or Boston."

While Colorado Springs officials have been courting Southwest for a long time, the final phase happened quickly. Southwest executives sought a two-day visit to Colorado Springs, which happened Sept. 30-Oct. 1 to review the city's airport and related facilities and the overall community, Suthers said. One airline executive, who had visited the city 13 years ago, told Suthers that Colorado Springs is now "a different city" than it was during his first visit.

Southwest had told the city in recent years, including meetings just after Suthers was elected in 2015, that the city was low on its list of possible destinations because contracts with its unionized workers limited the amount of part-time workers the airline could use, Suthers said. Those contracts have since been changed, which he said was a key factor in making Colorado Springs more attractive since most of its local workforce would be part time.

Southwest's arrival comes at low point for the Colorado Springs Airport and the entire aviation industry with air travel declining sharply during the pandemic before slowly recovering. Passenger numbers at the local airport fell in April to a low of 3,656, down nearly 94% from a year earlier, before recovering in August to 32,692, still down 58% from August 2019. Passenger numbers are expected to finish the year at 361,000 — which would be the lowest annual total since 1982. Airlines have responded by suspending service to several destinations, including Atlanta and Los Angeles, and reducing flights to the remaining cities.

Southwest Airlines to expand in Houston and Chicago in 2021
But the COVID-19 pandemic also played a big role in bringing Southwest to Colorado Springs, said Mike Boyd, an Evergreen-based aviation industry consultant who has worked for the local airport in the past. The pandemic has cut air travel sharply, leaving the airline with many idled aircraft and a surplus of workers that it is still paying. As a result, Southwest is looking for new destinations as a source of revenue.

Southwest "can go to Colorado Springs and fill up airplanes without losing a single passenger in Denver. Before COVID, they were operating (there) at 90% capacity; now they are not. These flights will fill very quickly," Boyd said. "They are doing things they said they wouldn't do six months ago. Before COVID, they had a shortage of airplanes. There has been a marked material change in the past six months. Colorado Springs was way down the list (of potential Southwest destinations), but thanks to COVID they are no longer way down on the list."

Boyd said he doubted any of the four airlines serving Colorado Springs — American, Delta, Frontier and United — would leave as a result of Southwest's arrival. He believes American, Delta and United could instead more quickly add back flights cut during the early months of the pandemic, and will reduce fares on Colorado Springs flights to remain competitive. He expects Southwest to sell at least 80% of its seats in Colorado Springs and believes some passengers will still drive to Denver for international flights and less popular nonstop destinations.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told employees in an Oct. 8 video message that the carrier is looking to generate additional revenue by adding cities to its route map as part of its strategy to recover from the pandemic. That strategy also includes another round of federal aid and cost-cutting by reducing the pay of non-union employees by 10% on Jan. 1 and seeking a similar cut from its union workforce. The airline lost $915 million in the second quarter.

CEO says Southwest needs union pay cuts to avoid furloughs
"It's an opportunity to put idle aircraft to work, and aircraft are costly assets, so if we can use them incrementally to build business in new markets with little or no new cost, we must pursue every opportunity," Kelly said in the video message. "With travel down, it is not just an opportunity but a mandate to seek new places where we can bring in more business by adding relevant service and generating new customers."

The video was made the same day Southwest announced plans for seasonal service to Montrose and Kelly said that and flights to three other destinations beginning in November and December "are just the beginning."

"We are looking at more places to put people and planes to work as quickly as we can," he said. Kelly added that Southwest has "dozens" of new opportunities for growth with its fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft and will pursue those opportunities "aggressively but not recklessly."

"In every case, these opportunities must meet our cash flow thresholds," he said.

Rivera, the former mayor, said he thought the city had landed Southwest 15 years ago, but the airline ended up in Denver instead because the carrier changed its strategy of operating from airports on the outskirts of major metro areas to serving major airports like DIA. Five years later, that relationship was cemented when Southwest acquired the bankrupt AirTran Airways, which gave it additional gates at DIA.

"This is awesome and great news. It has taken a while, but being mayor is often like a marathon. You start things like Southwest, the Olympic (and Paralympic) Museum and the Southern Delivery System (water project) and hand them off to the next mayor, or the one after that, for completion. I am happy to congratulate Mayor Suthers and the administration in place now.""
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Old 10-22-2020, 08:59 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
3,715 posts, read 2,979,331 times
Reputation: 4570
I vaguely recall Southwest making stops here back in the 80s. It was only for a few years before they bailed. Braniff had been running flights out of here for along time prior to that.
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Old 10-22-2020, 09:07 AM
 
1,184 posts, read 1,401,866 times
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Yay !
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Old 10-22-2020, 05:16 PM
 
6,105 posts, read 8,298,374 times
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Some of my frequent traveler friends are quite happy to hear this news. I miss Western Airlines - I got some great deals with them a few times in their short tenure.
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Old 10-22-2020, 05:17 PM
 
Location: Southwestern, USA
19,394 posts, read 14,927,951 times
Reputation: 20123
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilberry View Post
Yay !
HEY...that's what I came hear to say... YAY! Mine is in caps, tho.
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Old 10-22-2020, 05:51 PM
 
1,431 posts, read 1,939,199 times
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Maybe this will help make us a real city...
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Old 10-22-2020, 06:04 PM
 
1,576 posts, read 2,732,314 times
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Hopefully they don't fly you to Denver and wait for a connection like United does.
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Old 10-22-2020, 06:09 PM
 
6,105 posts, read 8,298,374 times
Reputation: 6574
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brill View Post
Hopefully they don't fly you to Denver and wait for a connection like United does.
Oh I expect they will, mostly. I figure they'll put in one or two destinations that fly direct from the Springs but most will have to go through Denver. Let's just hope they survive the pandemic....
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Old 10-23-2020, 07:24 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
6,127 posts, read 6,475,030 times
Reputation: 21213
I bet they will offer direct flights to many cities. They can easily use data mining to discover how many people from southern Colorado were driving to DIA for flights.
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Old 10-23-2020, 09:20 AM
 
963 posts, read 613,554 times
Reputation: 1558
Quote:
Originally Posted by otowi View Post
Some of my frequent traveler friends are quite happy to hear this news. I miss Western Airlines - I got some great deals with them a few times in their short tenure.
Assume you mean Western Pacific.

They were doing very well and people actually drove here from Denver (!) to catch flights since the fares were so low. Of course this was well-before I-25 was a nightmare due to the States population growth and lack of highway funds.

Then WestPac tried to expand in Denver and they got run out of town by the legacy carriers.

http://aviationtrivia.blogspot.com/2...ounded-at.html
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