Southwest Airlines bets on Austin with nine new non-stop routes
As air travel returns in the wake of COVID-19 wrath, Southwest Airlines is overtaking Austin.
The Dallas-based airline said Thursday it would add nine new non-stop routes in the spring in response to demand from the leisure and business traveler market.
The airline said it plans to increase service to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport by more than 20 flights per day, offering non-stop service between Austin and 46 destinations on a maximum of 105 departures per day. .
On March 10, the airlines announced they would begin daily non-stop service to Amarillo, Midland, Charleston, SC, Columbus, Ohio and Ontario, California.
Service to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and seasonal weekly service to Panama City, Florida; Sarasota / Bradenton, Fla. And Destin / Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Will begin on March 12.
Southwest Airlines began service to Austin 44 years ago this week. It is now the dominant carrier at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
“This is the biggest growth in Austin we have ever seen in our 44-year history,” said David Harvey, vice president of Southwest business. “When you think about all the residents, the growing population and what’s going on with the business climate where you have people opening new offices and moving their headquarters to Austin, the demand is there. “
The new flights have been scheduled to launch ahead of the spring break season and will serve a range of travelers, Harvey said.
“Customers tell us they want more additional options to get commercial connectivity, but the beaches have also been very hot,” he said. “This is why we have three new beach destinations in Florida and we are also expanding our international portfolio. “
Harvey said leisure travel returned to 2019 levels this summer, but the COVID delta variant has slowed the trajectory. Business travel remained on the decline as companies postponed travel amid the COVID delta variant.
“The remaining gap was really the business segment,” he said. “I know people have been working for the past 18 months with the Zoom platforms. Just as there was pent-up demand for recreation, there is absolutely the same pent-up demand for business. “
Southwest expects business travel to increase in the fall, Harvey said. “When you think of sales, new business development, new relationships, nothing beats face to face,” he said.
In addition to adding non-stop flights to Austin, Southwest is also adding employees. The airline has 450 employees at ABIA.
Southwest is looking to fill more than 5,000 positions across the country by the end of the year. In Austin, the airline is hiring in all areas, including customer service, ground support, and executive positions.
“As Austin and its airport continue to grow, we are delighted to welcome these new expanded services to central Texas,” said Jacqueline Yaft, CEO of Austin Airport.
In recent months, airlines have launched a number of new non-stop flights to and from Austin. In May, American Airlines began offering 10 annual and seasonal routes from ABIA.
Year-round daily service from Austin to Nashville, Las Vegas, Orlando and New Orleans began in May, with routes to Raleigh-Durham, Tampa and Washington-Dulles starting later in the summer, said the airline company.
New seasonal Saturday service to Aspen, Colorado, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, and Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Began in June.
Other airlines are also adding services from Austin. Alaska Airlines began flights from Austin to Boise, Idaho, in July. Allegiant Air began nonstop flights from Austin to Bozeman, Mont., And Bentonville, Ark this summer.
Meanwhile, Mexican low-cost airline Viva Aerobus has announced plans to offer non-stop flights to Mexico City and Monterrey.
Passenger traffic at Austin airport plunged 63% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The airport handled around 6.5 million passengers last year, up from 17.3 million passengers in 2019, its highest year of passenger travel on record.
The 2020 passenger count is the lowest number for Austin-Bergstrom since the airport opened in 1999. Prior to COVID-19, the airport had experienced 10 consecutive years of record passenger growth.
But there are signs of recovery: The Friday before Labor Day was the busiest day at the airport since the pandemic began, with 27,827 passengers.
While out-of-town visitors are returning to Austin’s hotels, restaurants and entertainment districts, industry analysts estimate it will take at least two years for the region’s hospitality industry to return to levels. of 2019. The return of business and international travel is expected to take much longer.
Lori Hawkins, American statesman from Austin (TNS)