Southwest to fly from BWI to N.Y. Discount airline plans 8 daily flights to Islip, Long Island

Undercutting rivals

Fares as low as $39 a challenge to locally dominant US Airways

Airlines

December 10, 1998|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Southwest Airlines announced plans to expand into the fringe of the New York City market yesterday, adding daily flights to Islip, Long Island, a commuter airport about 45 miles east of Manhattan.

The Dallas-based carrier will fly 12 daily flights to Islip's MacArthur Airport beginning March 14, eight of them from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The others will connect Islip to Chicago; Nashville, Tenn.; and Tampa, Fla.

Airline officials said the new routes are designed less to serve central New York City -- about an hour away -- than to create new service to Long Island, a market in itself with roughly 3 million residents.

"Our success is not premised on carrying any New York City traffic -- we'll do just fine with Long Island travelers," said Southwest President and Chairman Herb Kelleher. The distance from MacArthur Airport to New York's LaGuardia Airport is "a pretty good hike," he said.

Still, Southwest will offer fares to Islip that could steal business from other passenger services operating between Boston and Washington. The introductory fare between Baltimore and Long zTC Island will be as low as $39 one-way, undercutting Amtrak and competing airlines and approaching the cost of bus travel.

The one-way unrestricted, walk-up fare will be $65.

Kelleher said he also hopes the airline's traditionally low fares on the new routes will spawn travel that might not have existed before -- a phenomenon referred to in the airline industry as "the Southwest effect."

Since Southwest initiated service in Baltimore in 1993, the airline has built BWI into a type of hub airport for its routes to the Northeast. The airline already flies 11 daily flights to Providence, R.I., and eight to Manchester, N.H., from BWI -- routes whose success Kelleher pointed to as a model for the new Long Island service.

"Some of those people from New York will be connecting on flights to other cities, but this will add to BWI's passenger totals and its revenue and its economic impact," said Jay Hierholzer, BWI's associate administrator for marketing and development. "We clearly are Southwest's focus city on the East Coast."

Southwest first came to BWI with five daily flights to Chicago and three to Cleveland, and will have 82 flights to 19 cities when the Islip service begins.

The added flights at BWI put Southwest close to surpassing rival US Airways as the airport's dominant carrier. Southwest carried 328,000 passengers in October, compared with about 359,000 by US Airways.

US Airways schedules two flights a day from BWI to Islip -- the only airline currently flying that route. US Airways and its low-fare subsidiary, MetroJet, responded to Southwest's entry in the Providence and Manchester markets by matching fares from BWI, but have announced no plans to change service to Long Island.

The Maryland Aviation Administration, which operates BWI, is planning to expand the airport's Pier B to give Southwest 16 gates by the spring of 2001.

Kelleher said the airline plans to announce plans to start service to another city -- its 54th -- some time next year.

Pub Date: 12/10/98

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