The second-largest carrier at DIA, ranked only behind United Airlines, will add 10 new flights over the first half of this year. Those involve increases in frequency on routes that are heavily traveled by business fliers, daily expansions of formerly weekly routes and new routes to smaller East Coast cities.
Denver has become such a popular destination that Southwest increasingly is examining new cities that previously had no direct connection to the Mile High City and offering once-weekly service on Saturdays to see if it can stimulate interest between the airports.
Last summer, it tried that tact with the cities of Albany, Buffalo and Charleston, South Carolina— and saw such success with two of them that it will begin daily flights to Albany and Charleston on June 4.
This year, it is offering new Saturday and Sunday flights over the summer between Denver and Norfolk, Virginia, and offering Saturday and Sunday flights all year round between Denver and Pensacola, Florida, beginning on June 4.
And it will bump an international route to Belize City, Belize from Saturday only to Saturday and Sunday at the same time, because of passenger response, said Micheal Sikes, senior manager of business development.
“It is a great way to test the market,” Sikes said. “And, honestly, when we invest in Denver, customers respond.”
In addition to those new and expanded routes, Southwest is adding frequency to five other routes from Denver this year:
Tampa has expanded from two flights to three per day;
Milwaukee will jump from three daily flights to four;
Atlanta will increase from four flights per day to five;
Sacramento will increase from four daily flights to five;
Kansas City will bump from six flights per day to seven.
Sikes explained that Southwest has a key customer in mind with those expanded frequencies.
“In big key business markets, we continue to invest in our frequency because it makes us more attractive to business travelers and legacy travelers,” he said, noting that Denver is the fifth-largest market for Southwest now.
The increased frequency to Belize, meanwhile, represents Southwest’s growing interest in traveling outside the country from Denver, as well as from other destinations. The airline is working closely with DIA leaders on this growth trajectory, examining new destinations in the Caribbean and in Central America.
In fact, the only route that Southwest discontinued from 2016 to 2017 — the experimental weekly route to Buffalo — performed reasonably well, Sikes said. But with the airline maxing out its space at DIA and with it running into problems hiring at the airport because of its distance from population centers, among other factors, Southwest has to prioritize its resources both in Denver and nationwide.
“We try to get as much to Denver as we can, but we can’t do every opportunity that’s ahead of us,” Sikes added.
(Ed Sealover - Denver Business Journal)