Southwest Airlines: An In-Depth Review

Chapter 2: Southwest Airlines: Route Network
Development since 1971
Benjamin Sapte


  Southwest Airlines has grown from an airline serving three destinations in Texas, as a solely intrastate carrier, in 1971, to a major domestic player with one of the most comprehensive route networks from coast to coast in 2003.  This section discusses the development of the Southwest Airlines route network, from the company’s inception in 1971, through 2003, city by city.



1.0 The Early Years

Southwest Airlines attempted to start service out of Dallas Love Field in the late 1960s, but legal battles with other airlines in Texas – including Continental (in the form of Texas International), American Airlines and Braniff International – kept the airline’s wheels firmly on the ground until 1971 (

In that year, Southwest began service in the Texas triangle, flying from Dallas Love Field to both San Antonio to Houston Intercontinental.  Federal Regulation of the airline industry prior to 1978 meant that the airline (and any other) was limited to intrastate flights within its home state (in Southwest’s case, Texas) if it wished to remain financially unregulated, unlike bigger interstate (and in some cases, international) counterparts (Kane, 1999).  To this end, Southwest adhered to this policy in its route network through 1979.

The main issue from other carriers to Southwest’s entry was its use of Dallas Love Field.  In the late 1960s, the cities of D old Dallas allas and Ft Worth constructed the larger DFW airport located between the two cities (opened in 1974).  All airlines were contractually obligated to move their operations to the new airport, in order to leave the airport for residential development (  However, Dallas Love Field was not converted for residential or corporate use, but instead left as an airport that now became underused.  As a result, Southwest believed that this lack of service would be perfect for intrastate routes that would not be hampered by the large-scale operations seen at DFW. 

In order to try and prevent competition from the upstart carrier, the three major airlines in Texas at the time – Continental, American Airlines and Braniff – filed lawsuit after lawsuit in both Texas and Federal Court, in an attempt to prevent Southwest from beginning service at all.  In the end, the result of these battles was a form of compromise.  Instead of closing Dallas Love Field, the Wright (and later, Shelby) Amendment(s) were developed, in part, to limit the usefulness of the airport as a connection point for passengers.  The result was a ban on flights (and ticketed passengers) between Dallas Love Field and points outside of Texas and, later, the surrounding states, including Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, expanded in 1997 to include Mississippi and Alabama (Southwest Wright Amendment, 2004).  In order to protect future prospects for those carriers filing the lawsuits, the law placed these limits only on aircraft of 56 seat capacity or more (  This meant that airlines flying aircraft of 55 seats or less could fly to, from or through Dallas Love Field with no limitations on destination or range.


2.0 Continued Expansion

The years 1972, 1973 and 1974 saw expansion in the frequency of services between the three cities served since day one, with one exception.  Southwest had moved all Houston operations from Houston Intercontinental Airport to Houston Hobby Airport in 1972 (, to reduce the time necessary for passengers to get from the city to the airport.

However, in 1975, a new destination was added.  Harlingen (Rio Grande Valley) was introduced with daily service to all three cities in the existing route network (  Again, as before, 1976 saw expansion in frequencies but not destinations (O&D, 2004). 

In 1977, the city of Corpus Christi was added with service from both Dallas and Houston.  Meanwhile, Lubbock, El Paso, Midland and Austin were also added, served in a line from Dallas (O&D, 2004).  This expansion allowed Southwest to become a Texas-wide carrier, with service to cities across the state, where previously, the carrier had focused largely on East Texas.

1978 saw the addition of Amarillo to the route map, again served from the airline’s main connection point in Dallas.  At the same time, new routes were added between existing cities, linking Houston to Lubbock and Austin, and Austin to Harlingen (O&D, 2004).  These additional routes allowed the airline to offer more complete service around eastern Texas, but at the same time, still kept the carrier within the bounds of its home state.


3.0 Early Deregulation

When Jimmy Carter signed Airline Deregulation into law in 1978, as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, many airlines – including Southwest’s main competitors – exploded both domestically and internationally.  So much so, in fact, that Braniff suffered heavily from overexpansion soon after deregulation and closed its doors in 1982 – the first major airline casualty of deregulation (Dallas Historical Society, 2002).  Meanwhile, Southwest was an apparently notably more conservative airline in its expansion plans (as it remains to this day). 

1979 saw service added within Texas, between Dallas and the new city of Beaumont (later dropped after only 18 months of unprofitable service), and between the existing cities of Midland and Austin.  In its first move out of state, service was also added between New Orleans, LA (MSY) and Houston Hobby (O&D, 2004).

By 1980, Southwest had begun to realize the advantages of expanding outside of Texas, but with the similar conservative approach seen in the years preceding deregulation.  As a result, Tulsa, OK (TUL) and Oklahoma City, OK (OKC) in Oklahoma were added, with service from both Houston Hobby and Dallas, and Albuquerque, NM (ABQ) was added with service from both Dallas and El Paso.  At this point, it could be seen that both Dallas and Houston were beginning to resemble connection points.  An additional city-pair was added with a route between New Orleans and Dallas (O&D, 2004).  Meanwhile, it was always an issue that Dallas was severely limited in its connection opportunities, because of the limitations placed on the airport by the Wright Amendment.

As previously mentioned, all routes to Beaumont were dropped in 1980, following less than two years of unprofitable service.  Beaumont, located only 77 miles (96 miles by driving) from Houston Hobby, and already a major airline connection point, provided for almost duplicative service to Houston, and as such, was dropped after the route never brought money to the carrier (Airchive, 2004).   Beaumont was the first of only four markets to date which have experienced complete withdrawal by the airline.

In 1981, frequencies were increased on existing city-pair routes in the airline’s network, and new routes were opened up from Houston to two cities that would later become critical connection points in the airline’s network – Las Vegas, NV (LAS) and Kansas City, MO (MCI) (O&D, 2004).  This marked a slight deviation for Southwest in the sense that previously, all flights were short-haul services.  With the addition of these two cities, flights fell into the domestic, “medium-haul” category.   These routes marked the initial indications of an eventual vast western presence, but the airline expanded cautiously at first.

As previously discussed, following deregulation, most airlines, including some of the major carriers (including Eastern, Texas International and PeoplExpress) expanded in ways previously unseen (Kane, 1999).  Almost overnight, networks on these carriers grew from geographically specific areas, to all over the country, and beyond.  In addition, many new start-up carriers were formed, including the then-poster-child of deregulation, PeoplExpress.  PeoplExpress carried people cheaply – without using any form of yield management – across the country and across the Atlantic to London.  However, success was short-lived, and in 1982, PeoplExpress and its multitude of debt was absorbed by Frank Lorenzo’s Texas International (which also owned Eastern Airlines and Continental).  Other casualties of deregulation included Air Florida (also a start-up) and Texas’ very own Braniff (Ortega, 1999, and Dallas Historical Society, 2003).

As all this was happening, Southwest continued to be a carrier expanding slowly and cautiously into new cities.  The philosophy of the network appeared then – as now – to be one whereby new cities were served only from existing, established cities with enough traffic to support the route.  Rarely was there an occasion where Southwest introduced a new city pair (without acquiring cities through mergers) between two new cities in the network.

In contrast to the general trend, therefore, it is perhaps a rarity, therefore, 1982 saw further western expansion, including the addition of the major cities of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco in California, Phoenix in Arizona (and services between most of these new cities), additional services to Las Vegas, and additional services from Kansas City, MO to both Tulsa and Oklahoma City, in neighboring Oklahoma City.  Additional intrastate routes were also added in Texas from El Paso to Austin, San Antonio and Houston, complementing existing services to Dallas (via Midland) and Lubbock (O&D, 2004).

In a continuation of the previous year’s pattern, new flights were added in 1983 between San Francisco and San Diego, and between the existing cities of Los Angeles and both El Paso and San Antonio.  Other new routes included non-stop links between Albuquerque and Lubbock, Midland and Los Angeles (O&D, 2004).

Therefore, perhaps the most notable addition to the 1983 network was the addition of Denver, served by the Stapleton airport.  At that time, Denver was an airport dominated almost entirely by both United Airlines and Continental (again, Texas International).  Services to Denver began from the growing connection points at both Phoenix and Albuquerque (O&D, 2004).

Therefore, despite this, Southwest did struggle in the early 1980s as many airlines had done, with certain routes dropped from the network, in the first major route-dropping exercise that the company had seen.  This included routes between Las Vegas and Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Houston and Lubbock, and between Kansa City and Houston, in addition (O&D, 2004).


4.0 A New Fleet Type Arrives

Following the expansion of destinations (and contraction of some city pairs) in 1983, only one new city was added to the route map in 1984 – Little Rock, AR – served solely from Dallas Love Field.  However, with the addition of the first of many Boeing 737-300s to the Southwest fleet during the year, new longer-haul services were inaugurated between Houston Hobby and Los Angeles.  Previously, the range of the 737-200 (the mainstay of the airline’s fleet) had limited the carrier from flying routes over a certain range, usually within the realm of 1,000 to 1,200 miles.  With the increased range of the newer fleet type, longer routes became possible, hence the addition of the Dallas-Los Angeles flight.  Perhaps interestingly, however, this route was dropped in the following year (O&D, 2004).  In addition, new city pairs were introduced between San Diego and El Paso, Lubbock and both Phoenix and Austin, and Dallas to, as previously stated, Little Rock.

One the other hand, 1984 did mark a slight turnaround for Southwest, in one form.  In this year, the airline entered a new airport, in an existing city.  This airport was Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH).  In a continuation of a policy that exists to this day, Houston Intercontinental is served primarily from Dallas Love Field (O&D, 2004).  Southwest offers no regular service from this airport to any other city, except for in brief periods of non-scheduled demand. 

The reason for this may be at least partially attributed to the quest for the minimization of duplication in any given city.  As seen in Detroit in the late 1980s, when Southwest entered Detroit City airport, the original intention was to take an underused secondary airport, and develop it into an operations center for Southwest (Jenkins, 2004).  However, the lack of an ideal runway at the secondary facility in Detroit meant that Southwest left the airport in preference for the larger (albeit more busy) main area airport, located at Detroit Metropolitan (DTW).

Houston, however, offers an interesting example of duplication within a city – and the only city in the current Southwest network in which both major airports are served.  This can be largely attributed to the demand for traffic from Houston Bush Intercontinental to the close-by Love Field in Dallas. 


5.0 Eastward Expansion

The year 1985 saw many new cities added to the Southwest network, largely in the Midwest, east of Southwest’s existing route network, and a major route dropped from the network.  This route abandonment came on the Albuquerque – Denver city pair (O&D, 2004), where the airline faced declining yields and major attack competition from other, more established carriers Continental and United Airlines.  In addition, weather and congestion considerations caused Southwest to reevaluate its presence at the Stapleton airport and, eventually, pull out (Airchive, 2004).  In addition, the route between Dallas and Corpus Christi was also dropped, leaving the city served only from Houston Hobby.  This specific city – the only airport served solely from one connecting point – will be discussed later in more detail.

Meanwhile, eastward expansion came in the form of the addition of Chicago (Midway), IL (MDW), St Louis, MO (STL), served from Kansas City, Little Rock and New Orleans, and, in the case of St Louis, also Houston Hobby.  Ontario, CA (ONT) was added in the west to continue the build-up of Southwest presence in the state, and additional route growth was seen in Phoenix and Albuquerque to cities across the Southwest, including Midland and San Antonio.  New city-pair services also appeared between Albuquerque and both Kansas City and Tulsa (O&D, 2004). 

Since 1985, Corpus Christi has provided a true example of a network, “spoke” within a carrier.  While other airports in the Southwest system, both then and now, are served from at least two connecting points (at least, in the long term), either major or minor, the thing that truly makes Corpus Christi unique in the Southwest system is that it is served only from nearby Houston.  Service that once operated from Dallas, was subsequently dropped in 1985.  Since connectivity in Corpus Christi is nil (O&D, 2004), all Southwest traffic to the city is funneled through the Houston connection point.

This could speculatively be attributed to the implications of the Wright Amendment.  Previous service to Corpus Christi from Dallas was limited.  With the Wright Amendment in place, the airline could connect passengers through this city only from Texas and surrounding states.  However, for passengers outside of Texas and those surrounding states, Dallas Love Field was not legally a viable option as a connection point.  As a result, Houston Hobby – unaffected by the Wright Amendment or any other limitation on route regionality – provided unhindered access to Corpus Christi from any destination served across the Southwest system from the connection point.  As a result, Corpus Christi may have been dropped from Dallas as a partial result of this, with Houston taking up any and all slack created by the move.

A crucial addition to the network came in 1986, when Southwest added the city of Nashville, TN (BNA), offering its most easterly destination yet, located just a few hours drive from one of the largest cities – and air transportation hubs – in the country, Atlanta, GA.  Nashville later grew into a major connection point but, at the time, service was inaugurated with flights from the other existing connection points at Houston Hobby and Chicago Midway (O&D, 2004).

Another crucial addition of 1986 came in the form of the acquisition of Muse Air, one of the main competitors for Southwest (set up originally to cooperate on certain routes) in certain areas.  The airline was renamed, “TranStar” and was later merged entirely into the Southwest network (Airchive, 2004).

The interesting case of Muse Air was that it was set up originally in partial cooperation with Southwest Airlines, by former Southwest CEO Lamar Muse, in 1982, flying MD-80s between Houston and Dallas (Airchive, 2004).  Southwest then purchased the airline, having become primary competitors to one another, in 1986.  It renamed this subsidiary, “TranStar,” operating two-class MD-80s along the southern portion of the country, from California to Florida.  However, the parent airline subsequently closed down the division in 1987 (Airchive, 2004), as previously mentioned.

1987 continued the trend of easterly expansion with the addition of Birmingham, AL and Detroit (Metro), MI.  Detroit was provided with services across Lake Michigan from Chicago Midway, and from Kansas City and St Louis.  Meanwhile, first-year operations in Birmingham began with service from Houston Hobby and Chicago.  Additional services were also seen between Phoenix and San Francisco, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and also between Oklahoma City and Little Rock (O&D, 2004).

Southwest’s continued expansion eastward from 1987 onward belied the carrier’s name, but did not serve to diminish the success of the carrier in any way.  Indeed, the focused population centers of the eastern half of the country provided additional new passenger origin & destination opportunities for the carrier. 

As seen in a similar move in 1984 in Houston (discussed previously), Southwest duplicated its commitment to a city in 1988 with the addition of Detroit City Airport (DET).  The airport was initially served with flights from both St Louis and Chicago Midway, duplicating some of the services seen at the nearby Detroit Metro. 

The intention of Detroit City service was to enter an airport not dominated by any carrier (albeit with a short runway), in an attempt to move carrier operations for the city from the busier airport at Detroit Metro.  However, ultimately, Southwest operations at Detroit City were severely hampered by the length of the runway, and the carrier eventually pulled out of the airport in late 1991 in favor of the larger Metropolitan airport (Jenkins, 2004).


6.0 Continued Expansion and Contraction

Additional city-pairs added in 1988 included flights between Nashville and Houston, and Albuquerque, Phoenix and both New Orleans and Detroit Metro, Los Angeles and San Antonio, and Lubbock and Houston.  North-south long distance flights continued to grow in number in the network, and with the 737-300 and promise of the imminent arrival of the longer-range 737-500, the airline was able to offer longer and longer non-stop flights for passengers.

Conversely, 1988 also saw many previously-added routes dropped from the schedule, for both the latter stages of 1988 and 1989.  Some of these routes centered on Albuquerque, and included routes to Nashville, Kansas City, San Diego, San Antonio and Tulsa.  Other routes dropped included between Detroit Metro and both Kansas City and St Louis, and between San Antonio and Los Angeles (O&D, 2004).

In contrast to the amount of city-pairs dropped in 1988, therefore, it is perhaps considered surprising that only a few new routes were added in 1989, and two new cities.  All the new city-pairs focused on these new cities.  The first was Oakland, CA, located in the Greater San Francisco Bay area, begun with services to Phoenix, San Diego and Ontario.  The second city was in the east – Indianapolis, IN – and experienced Southwest service to both St Louis and Detroit City Airport (O&D, 2004)

While frequencies were increased network-wide, 1990 saw the addition of Reno, NV and Burbank, CA to the route map, and five new routes, from Reno to Oakland and Las Vegas, and Las Vegas to both Ontario and Burbank.  Routes that were dropped included Detroit Metro-centered routes to St Louis and Phoenix, and the route from Little Rock to Houston Hobby (O&D, 2004) 

Meanwhile, 1991 continued the trend of the addition of California cities to the route network, with Sacramento in the north added with flights from Burbank, Los Angeles and San Diego.  An additional city paid came in the form of the route between San Diego and Las Vegas.  San Francisco also gained flights to Burbank.  In addition, service was commenced from both Kansas City and Albuquerque to St Louis (O&D, 2004)

1992 saw the arrival of Southwest into Ohio – traditionally major airline territory.  Services were commenced from Columbus to Chicago Midway and St Louis, and between Cleveland and St Louis and Chicago Midway.  Additional city-pair routes were also added between Las Vegas and Kansas City, Sacramento and Oakland, Albuquerque and San Diego, and between Phoenix and Burbank.  Services dropped in 1992 included those between El Paso and San Francisco, and between Houston and Albuquerque.  1992 also marked the year when Detroit City Airport was dropped from the route map, leaving all Detroit services flying from the larger Metropolitan airport (O&D, 2004)

1993 saw the addition of Baltimore to the schedules, with considerable presence in the airport from day one, initially with services to Chicago Midway and Cleveland.  Meanwhile, other expansion included the addition of flights between Phoenix and both Reno and Sacramento, and St Louis and Detroit.  In addition to this, Louisville, KY (SDF) was added with service from Chicago Midway and Birmingham, with additional new cities including Tucson, AZ (TUC) and San Jose, CA (SJC) and Orange County, CA (SNA) (O&D, 2004) 

Despite this, service between San Francisco and El Paso, in addition to Austin and Albuquerque to Bush Intercontinental, a spate of Nashville routes, and flights between Chicago Midway and Detroit City Airport, were dropped (O&D, 2004)


7.0 An Explosion in Expansion

By way of both dedicated expansion and the acquisition of Salt Lake City-based Morris Air in 1994, service grew on both coasts, in a major way.  Service from Baltimore – now a true designated passenger transfer point for the company – grew, with new non-stop service to Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Austin, Birmingham and Nashville.  In addition, the acquisition of Morris Air, with its compatible fleet of Boeing 737s, brought new destinations to the route map, including Seattle (SEA) and Spokane (GEG), WA, Boise, ID (BOI), Portland, OR (PDX), and Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) (O&D, 2004)

Morris Air brought service from these cities to cities all over California and the west (including Las Vegas and Phoenix).  In addition, these routes were complimented with true Southwest service from these cities to transfer points including Kansas City and Nashville, and new regional services from Salt Lake City to additional existing cities in California.

Nashville also grew substantially in 1994, with service added to many points throughout the east and west.  Transcontinental flights also began to appear at this time, with the first flight from Baltimore to Las Vegas (operated by 737-500 aircraft), and between cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas to Nashville.  No routes were dropped in 1994 (O&D, 2004)

The acquisition of Morris Air allowed the carrier to add entire new states – including Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Washington – to the Southwest network, without the effort of dedicated expansion as such.  In addition, the similar fleet of the carriers and the lack of major route network overlap allowed a more seamless integration between the carriers (

By 1995, the Southwest route network had begun to resemble the, “spider web” that has now become common-place in the network.  Expansion came largely in the form of longer routes, with some exceptions, where growth was centered largely on northwestern destinations, served from Las Vegas.  Here, service began to Boise, Portland and Seattle (O&D, 2004)

Meanwhile, mid-range long-haul services from western states to the Midwest and Texas also became more plentiful, with the increased use of Boeing 737-500 aircraft. Some examples include the addition of services between Salt Lake City and Kansas City, and service from a new city in the network – Omaha, NE (OMA) – to St Louis, Chicago Midway, Las Vegas and Phoenix.  Other routes included the inauguration of service between Austin and Nashville, and additional services focused on Little Rock, AR (O&D, 2004) 


8.0 Further East Coast Expansion

By 1996, it was becoming clear that one major area of population density that went unserved by Southwest was the southeastern portion of the United States, including one of the largest states in the union by population – Florida.  When Southwest did introduce service to Florida, it was with the full force of the existing Southwest route system behind it.  They began with services to Tampa, Orlando and, to a lesser extent, Ft Lauderdale.  Ft Lauderdale was served only with flights from Tampa and Orlando, but each of these respective cities were served by cities such as the (newly introduced) Providence, RI (PVD), Indianapolis, Louisville, Baltimore, Birmingham, Nashville, St Louis and New Orleans.  In addition, Orlando was given services to Austin and San Antonio.  Further western route expansion included Houston, Amarillo and Lubbock to Houston, and Los Angeles to San Antonio (O&D, 2004)

The idea behind the introduction of service to new cities within the Southwest Airlines route network was one aimed largely around the economies of scale not seen with other carriers when they introduce a new destination.  Southwest has specific requirements (discussed in another section) about criteria when entering a new city, including the 20-minute turn time requirement, an airport with a minimum potential market of ten flights per day, and specific other requirements (Jenkins, 2004).  This, therefore, reduces the unit costs to the airline of opening up new cities to a minimum.  As a result, profit margins can be increased without the need for high load factors at new stations.

Providence was added, as previously mentioned, to the schedules in order to bring the other main untapped area of population – New England – into the airline’s network (  This city was served Orlando, Tampa, Baltimore and Chicago Midway.   No routes were dropped in 1996 (O&D, 2004).


9.0 Airline Fees

Prior to the mid-1990s, air travel taxes were based on the length of flight. Therefore, passengers on a 200 mile flight (regardless of airline) would pay less in taxes than passengers flying a 2,000 mile flight with any other carrier. With the introduction of per-segment taxes in the mid-to-late 1990s, partly as a result of legacy carrier pressure on the Federal Aviation Administration, those legacy carriers intended to force Southwest from some markets due to the increased cost of traveling to passengers, due to the higher per-segment taxes now charged.

However, Southwest responded in a manner perhaps unexpected by some competitors, but most definitely befitting of the venerable quick-thinking carrier.  In response to the increase in passenger taxes, Southwest began to add more medium- and long-haul domestic flights to their network.  This further became possible a year later, in 1998, with the addition of longer-range Boeing 737-700 aircraft, able to fly almost fully loaded from the east coast to the west.  As a result (and without the 737-700s for the short-term), the airline introduced routes from Florida to the southwest, and the Midwest to the west coast.

Building on the success of prior city additions in Florida, Southwest continued to expand in the state, adding Jacksonville as its fourth destination.  Other network additions included the city of Jackson, in Mississippi.  The first routes from Jackson included service to Midway, Baltimore, Orlando and Houston Hobby.  Other new city pairs included previously discussed transcontinental flights between Oakland and Kansas City and Nashville, Los Angeles and Kansas City and St Louis, and Albuquerque to both Orlando and Tampa.  In addition, Baltimore continued to grow with additional services to Jacksonville, Ft Lauderdale, Kansas City and Jackson.  Jacksonville and Ft Lauderdale also became linked with Southwest service.  The only dropped route in 1997 was between Oakland – El Paso (O&D, 2004).


10.0 Long Haul Aircraft Arrive

The arrival of the first Boeing 737-700 aircraft in 1998 enabled Southwest to fly noticeably longer route distances than previously seen.  Previously, only the 737-500 had the range to fly routes such as Baltimore – Las Vegas, but with the arrival of the -700 series, routes between the coasts became possible.  With the small complement of -700s that the airline had in 1998, however, they held off on major long-haul East-West expansion until the years to follow.

Manchester, NH (MHT) was added in 1998, with initial service to Baltimore, Nashville, Orlando and Chicago Midway.  Other new service included Providence to Kansas City, Ft Lauderdale to St Louis and Kansas City, and transcontinental flights from Baltimore to Phoenix, Las Vegas to New Orleans and Nashville, and Kansas City to Portland.  Baltimore also saw new service to New Orleans, Spokane gained service to Las Vegas, and regional services were added from Oakland to Boise and Albuquerque (O&D, 2004).  With expansion, however, came some dropping of routes.  San Francisco continued to lose service (as previously seen in 1993, and El Paso), this time from Albuquerque.  Additional dropped routes included flights from Salt Lake City to San Diego and Sacramento. 


11.0 Long Haul Fever

1999 marked the true advent of long-haul domestic flights at Southwest.  New destinations were added in the Northeast, including both Islip, NY (ISP) and Hartford, CT (BDL).  Long-haul services were inaugurated between Las Vegas and Orlando and Tampa in Florida, and Cleveland and Chicago Midway in the Midwest.  Other major additions included flights from Kansas City and Nashville to Seattle, Phoenix to Seattle, Portland, Orlando and Chicago Midway, and flights from Los Angeles to New Orleans and Orlando (O&D, 2004). 

North-south expansion in eastern states also began to grow with increased aircraft fleet size, including services from the Northeast to Florida, including new routes from the new cities in the northeast.  Included in this category were services from both Islip and Hartford to Orlando.  In addition, the new city of Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU) was added in the company’s first destination in the Carolinas.  Service to the city was inaugurated with flights to Chicago Midway, Baltimore, Nashville, Orlando and Tampa.  Additional flights were also added between Ft Lauderdale and Chicago Midway and New Orleans.  Austin also gained service from Tampa.  Manchester gained service from Kansas City, and as can be seen from the relevant route map, Kansas City became a more important centralized connection point for Southwest services than ever before.  Despite the growth seen in 1999, service was also dropped between Oakland and Tulsa (O&D, 2004). 

The year 2000 was no exception to the addition of long-haul services, seeing large quantities of new flights between Las Vegas and Phoenix, and cities east of the Mississippi.  New service included cities such as Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit and Hartford.  In addition, service was also inaugurated to the new cities of both Buffalo (BUF) and Albany, NY (ALB), in what could be viewed as a preemptive move to the next upstart, JetBlue Airways.  Routes from Buffalo included Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tampa, Baltimore and Hartford.  Similarly, Albany saw new service to Las Vegas, Baltimore and Orlando.  Service was also introduced between Providence and Las Vegas, in addition to services between Sacramento and Raleigh/Durham, Ontario and Nashville, and San Diego and New Orleans.  New regional services included flights from Austin to Raleigh/Durham, Baltimore and San Diego, and between Houston Hobby and Reno and Salt Lake City (O&D, 2004). 

East coast services were also expanded to include routes Chicago Midway to both Orlando and Tampa, and routes from Islip to Orlando, Jacksonville and Ft Lauderdale.  Kansas City saw increased transcontinental traffic, from both east and west, and Chicago Midway gained service to Albuquerque and Ft Lauderdale.  Tampa gained service from San Antonio, in addition (O&D, 2004).

In contrast, 2000 also saw the removal of services between Spokane and Las Vegas, Houston to Reno, Salt Lake City and Providence, and Las Vegas and Orlando. 


12.0 The 21st Century

The 21st century so far has been by no means easy for the US domestic airline industry, and Southwest is no exception.  However, routes introduced in 2001 included many major long-haul routes, including Las Vegas to Raleigh/Durham, Baltimore and Norfolk, VA (ORF), a new city in the network.  Palm Beach, FL (PBI) was also introduced, seeing initial service to Houston Hobby and to the Northeast (O&D, 2004).

Birmingham gained service from Albuquerque, as did Portland, in addition to services from Phoenix to both Raleigh and Columbus.  Service was also inaugurated from Oakland to New Orleans, and between San Antonio and San Diego (O&D, 2004). 

New north-south East Coast routes were added, including Tampa to Manchester and Ft Lauderdale to Hartford.  Service was also inaugurated between Columbus and Baltimore, truly increasing the significance of Baltimore in the network. Service was inaugurated to Palm Beach from Houston, Providence and Baltimore (O&D, 2004).

As with 2000, however, 2001 was a year of route dropping in addition.  Some routes only recently inaugurated were cancelled in the last calendar quarter of the year, including Hartford and Cleveland to Las Vegas, Ft Lauderdale to Providence and St Louis, and Phoenix and San Francisco.

San Francisco also lost service from San Diego, in addition to Phoenix.  Because these were the only three destinations served from the region, Southwest removed Southwest from their route system, largely due to the excessive ground hold times associated with using the airport.  As a result, Southwest concentrated all Bay-centered traffic into nearby Oakland and, to a lesser extent, Sacramento.

2002 was a noticeably more conservative year for all airlines and again, Southwest was no exception.  However, network development continued.  Service was inaugurated between Los Angeles and both Baltimore and Chicago Midway.  Oakland saw new routes to Houston and Chicago Midway, and San Diego gained service to the Illinois city, in addition.  Other new routes for 2002 included Phoenix to Cleveland and Seattle to Chicago Midway.  Sacramento also became linked with Orange County by way of Southwest service.  Despite this, no new cities were added in 2002; the only growth was seen in linking new city-pairs in the existing network (O&D, 2004).

Conversely, as with 2001, 2002 was a year where routes were also dropped.  Las Vegas to Raleigh/Durham, Kansas City and Oakland to Houston, Palm Beach to Orlando, St Louis to Indianapolis, and Islip to Jacksonville, all lost service, in addition to other routes.  No cities were dropped in 2002, however.

The most recent year with information available – 2003 – shows that the only routes added in the first two quarters were between Baltimore and San Jose, and Cleveland and Orlando.  No information was available for routes dropped between 2003 and 2004, since route information for 2004 is beyond the scope of this investigation (O&D, 2004).




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