Southwest Airlines has announced they will expand service to Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston. The expansion will happen in 2021 and was announced on October 12, 2020, on Southwest's Twitter.
The airline already has a hub in both cities, at Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) and at William P. Hobby International Airport (HOU) in Houston. The reason for this expansion is unknown, and no routes have been announced. This could also indicate some new additions to their fleet, which has historically only consisted of Boeing 737s. "The shift comes as airlines rethink their networks after the coronavirus pandemic devastated demand. Business travel has largely been absent, forcing carriers to focus on vacationers with beach and other outdoor destinations."
The Dallas based lowcost carrier is making a risky move, as United has a major hub in both IAH and ORD, with the airlines' headquarters being in Chicago. Southwest chief commerical officer Andrew Watterson said "It's very common for us to serve multiple airports in the same city, we just had not been able to previously. So now with extra aircraft, reduced activity in these airports, we're able to introduce markets and offer customers a good choice to fly Southwest. Once again, there's lower risk because of the current customer base there as well as the extra assets we have idled that we can redeploy."
Watterson also said "We have customers who fly us out of Midway but perhaps their job is downtown and Midway is more convenient, so maybe they would like to leave from Midway and return at O'Hare. And so the opportunity to have multiple airports in a geography works really well for us." CEO Gary Kelly also described the strategy as "adding breadth to the market because the number of passengers at every single airport is down considerably." The airline also recently announced flights to Palm Springs, CA, and Miami. Southwest is making many changes that will take place in the near future.
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