Southwest's Dallas expansion has notable gaps

DAVID KOENIG AP Airlines Writer Published:

DALLAS (AP) -- The second-guessing has begun over Southwest's choice of routes to serve from Dallas when a 34-year-old federal law limiting long flights at Love Field expires this fall.

On Monday, CEO Gary Kelly announced that Southwest Airlines Co. would fly nonstop between Dallas and 15 other cities. Southwest's eight busiest airports by departures all made the cut, including Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. So did smaller but expanding operations in New York and Washington.

Talk soon turned to cities that didn't make the cut.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel-industry analyst for Hudson Crossing, said all 15 cities on the list made sense but he was surprised that Oakland, Calif., Seattle and Boston weren't added. Southwest said it operates 97 daily departures at Oakland -- that's more than half the cities that will get service to Dallas -- plus 71 at San Jose, Calif., and 44 at San Francisco.

"They may plan to add these cities later as aircraft become available," Harteveldt said.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the new flights will require offsetting cuts somewhere else until at least 2015, when the airline might expand its fleet. The first 15 cities from Dallas are "just a start," he said. "There's plenty more that we want to do." He declined to address specific cities.

Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant, said Southwest officials "don't have much interest in New England," partly because of the emergence of JetBlue as a strong player in Boston. All the new routes will face tough competition, he said.

"This is going to be good for the consumer and for Southwest, but it isn't any slam dunk," Boyd said. "Every market that Southwest will serve from Love has bazillions of seats already" from nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a hub for American Airlines.

Ultra-low-cost Spirit Airlines flies between DFW Airport and 12 of the 15 markets that Southwest just announced. Boyd said that means Southwest won't stimulate the Dallas market with low fares.

Southwest said it will announce fares and schedules on the new routes in May.

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Oct. 13: Southwest plans to begin nonstop service from Dallas to Chicago's Midway Airport, Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla.

Nov. 2: Dallas flights begin to New York's LaGuardia Airport, Washington's Reagan National Airport, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana, Calif., Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Fla., Phoenix, Nashville, Tenn.