Southwest is adding 10 flights at BWI

Southwest adds 10 BWI flights, including 2nd nonstop to Calif.

October 19, 2002|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Southwest Airlines said yesterday that it will add 10 daily flights at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as it resumes growth plans that were curtailed after the terrorist attacks last year.

Among the flights is a daily nonstop round trip to San Jose, Calif. - Southwest's second transcontinental offering - as the budget carrier continues to look beyond short- and medium-distance flights.

The BWI-San Jose flights are to begin Jan. 12. Southwest initiated its transcontinental service - a BWI-to-Los Angeles route - Sept. 15.

"It just might not be the last you hear of us," said Ed Stewart, Southwest's spokesman, referring to possible plans for more transcontinental flights. "The whole notion of market share doesn't matter; it's profitability. If we start service on a Monday, we'd like to be making money on a Tuesday. We're looking for places that are under-served and overpriced."

As other airlines have slashed service and laid off thousands of workers, Dallas-based Southwest is the only major airline to continue to post profits since Sept. 11 last year. Thursday, the company reported a thin profit and warned that it couldn't predict a profit for this quarter.

Southwest's additions to existing routes are all nonstop flights, including four daily round trips to Orlando, Fla.; and one each to Tampa, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Manchester, N.H.; and Hartford, Conn. The flights will begin in December and January.

To support the added flights, Southwest said, it has moved up delivery of three Boeing 737-700 airplanes to this quarter, with plans to add 17 next year. Southwest currently has 370 airplanes.

"Southwest is picking up where other airlines are letting go," said Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel analyst for Forrester Research Inc. "They're doing something rare, adding planes and adding frequencies."

Southwest's move into transcontinental flights is being watched closely by its higher-priced competitors, said Adam M. Pilarski, an airline industry consultant with Avitas Inc. in Chantilly, Va.

"Other airlines should be wary," he said. "This may be the beginning of another strategy which goes toward longer flights, still with the same fairly small planes."

Southwest, which flies 45 percent of the airport's 1.8 million passengers a month, uses 17 gates at BWI and could expand to as many as 31 gates after construction of a larger pier is completed in 2005.

Despite Southwest's dominance at BWI, the airport has diversified more over the past year, said John White, a BWI spokesman. AirTran Airways, which started service in December with seven flights, has grown to 23 flights, he said.

"We have five airlines carrying more than 100,000 passengers a month this year," White said. "Last year, we only had three."

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