Southwest Airlines to fly to Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport

Friday, October 3, 2008, 8:17 by Aviation Correspondent

Southwest Airlines, the low-cost airline based in Dallas, Texas, the United States, plans to start service to Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, the United States, in March 2009.

“The planned service to Minneapolis is Southwest Airlines’ first new city in more than a year, even as the airline faces a very significant risk of slowing demand due to an economic slowdown,” Gary Kelly, chief executive of the company, said in a statement. “The low-fare airline, which now carries more US passengers than any other airline, will initiate service here with at least eight to 10 daily departures to Chicago’s Midway Airport.”

“The outlook for 2009 is a little dubious for our economy, for the airline industry and for Southwest Airlines,” Gary Kelly continued. “You couple that with very high fuel prices and it’s just a time for us to be very cautious.”

Southwest Airlines intends to re-deploy some of its planes to serve Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport. It will use the 137-seat Boeing 737 planes on the route.

While Southwest Airlines will operate out of Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport’s Humphrey satellite terminal, Northwest Airlines operates out of the main Lindbergh terminal.

Southwest’s new flight schedule will be announced in a few weeks, the airline said.

From Chicago’s Midway Airport, Southwest Airlines at present operates non-stop services to 47 cities, including four cities in Florida and six cities in California.

The website aviationweek.com quoted Tom Parsons, chief executive officer of  www.bestfares.com as commenting on Southwest’s plan: “Southwest Airlines’ development is huge. The airline will appeal to consumers because it doesn’t charge any fees for the first two checked bags. Northwest Airlines and many other big carriers now levy bag fees, such as $15 for the first bag on Northwest.  You probably have a 100 US cities which are envious of Minneapolis, because they want Southwest.”

Southwest’s service to Minneapolis will initially be limited to flights to and from Chicago.

Minneapolis’ suburb Eagan, Minnesota, is the home of Northwest Airlines, which is being acquired by Delta Air Lines. In the opinion of some aviation experts, the combined airline will probably reduce flights at Minneapolis.

However, Southwest’s CEO Garry Kelly insists that the Northwest Airlines-Delta Air Lines deal “is not a consideration,” adding, “other United States-based carriers have raised fares and sharply cut flights this fall, creating tremendous opportunities for Southwest Airlines to expand.”

Jack Lanners, chairman of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, said in a statement: “The Commission had pursued the low-fare Southwest Airlines for over a decade and wanted to bring in some competition against Northwest Airlines, the airport’s dominant carrier. Southwest Airlines’ acceptance of the invitation promises tremendous benefits to the airport, to Minnesota, and to the Upper Midwest region.”