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VOL. 128 | NO. 90 | Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Southwest Makes Memphis Service Official

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

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Southwest Airlines Co. said Tuesday, May 7, it will enter the Memphis market Nov. 3 with daily nonstop service to five cities: Houston, Baltimore, Chicago, and Tampa and Orlando, Fla.

The Dallas-based discount air carrier is adding two new daily flights from Memphis to Houston and Tampa. The two new flights are in addition to previously announced flights from Southwest’s AirTran subsidiary to Baltimore, Chicago and Orlando that begin Aug. 11. Those flights also will operate under the Southwest brand beginning Nov. 3.

The new flights are available for booking now, including flights as low as $79 one-way through a fare sale that runs through 11:59 p.m. on May 13.

“We are excited that Southwest Airlines has decided not only to bring their brand name into Memphis International, but to expand the number of destinations that they will serve from Memphis,” said Jack Sammons, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

The new service is critical to passenger activity at Memphis International Airport after Delta Air Lines Inc. last year began paring its Memphis flight schedule by about 18 percent to account for reduced passenger demand.

Beginning Nov. 3 Southwest Airlines will fly nonstop:

• Two daily roundtrip flights between Memphis International (MEM) and Chicago Midway International (MDW)

• One daily roundtrip flight between Memphis International (MEM) and Baltimore/Washington International (BWI)

• One daily roundtrip flight between Memphis International (MEM) and Orlando International (MCO)

• One daily roundtrip flight between Memphis International (MEM) and Houston 

• One daily roundtrip flight between Memphis International and Tampa International (TPA) 

Flights to Baltimore/Washington, Chicago Midway and Orlando are available beginning on Aug. 11 through AirTran, a Southwest subsidiary. Those flights will operate under the Southwest brand beginning Nov. 3.

The Atlanta-based airline said it would drop all of its nonstop service to Birmingham, Ala., and Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, Fla., in addition to cutting the number of daily flights it offers to 11 other cities. Delta has warned it may further reduce Memphis’ flights if demand wanes.

Memphis leaders have aggressively courted air carriers to bring affordable and frequent service to the airport amid public criticism over high airfares and fewer flights.

While Memphis International will gain nonstop flights to five new cities, the airport also will lose AirTran flight service to Atlanta on Nov. 3. Southwest acquired AirTran in May 2011 in a $1 billion cash-and-stock deal, and the airline has been slowly phasing out AirTran service since the merger.

Sammons applauded Southwest’s arrival to the Memphis market, but he also sounded a note of caution: “While we celebrate the arrival of this premier aviation brand name to Memphis, we must all also remember that the long-term commitment to Memphis is dependent upon how well these initial flights perform. I have said this many times to many groups across our community over the last few months – Southwest executives remarked to me earlier this year that ‘The more flights we take, the more we get.’”

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