Southwest Airlines adding Phoenix flights this fall
Consumer travel reporter Dawn Gilbertson does a live Q&A with Southwest Airlines president Tom Nealon on March 8, 2017.
Southwest Airlines is boosting service in Phoenix this fall.
The number of new flights isn't huge, and no new routes are debuting, but the added flights are a sign the nation's largest domestic carrier is still growing in one of its largest and oldest markets.
Southwest, which began service in Phoenix with 13 daily flights in 1982 and now has 180, is adding six daily nonstop flights.
The airline is adding two daily flights from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to San Jose, Calif., and one each to Denver, New Orleans, San Antonio and Austin, Texas.
With the additions, Southwest will offer 11 daily flights between Phoenix and Denver, the top destination out of Sky Harbor according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics figures.
It will also have seven daily flights to San Jose, five to Austin, four to San Antonio and two to New Orleans.
Will Hawaii flights be next?
Southwest announced the new flights as part of its latest schedule extension. The airline opened its schedule for bookings through Nov. 3.
The next extension, expected to occur in May, will cover the holiday travel period. All eyes will be on that schedule to see if the airline has any details on when it will start its Hawaii flights, unless something is announced before then.
Southwest expanding at Phoenix airport
Southwest, the No. 2 carrier at Sky Harbor after American in terms of flights and passengers, has two major projects planned at the airport.
It is doubling the size of its maintenance hangar and will occupy a new, eight-gate concourse in Terminal 4. Construction has begun on the hangar and the concourse is in the final planning stages, said Craig Drew, the airline's senior vice president of air operations and its designated "executive ambassador'' to Phoenix.
The airline needs the eight new gates to accommodate its newer Boeing 737s, which have 175 seats vs. 143 seats on its traditional 737s.
The gate areas will be roomier, something Southwest needs during peak travel times.
"I came in on (concourse) C today and there were three flights going on at the same,'' Drew said. "It can be a little crowded."
The hangar is expected to be done in 2020, the concourse in 2020 or 2021. Southwest will likely give up eight gates elsewhere in Terminal 4 when the new gates debut.
Southwest, American dominate at Sky Harbor
Southwest carried nearly 14.9 million passengers into and out of Sky Harbor Airport in 2017, up 3.1 percent from 2016. The airline accounted for one in three passengers at Sky Harbor.
American and Southwest together account for 80 percent of Sky Harbor's passenger traffic. Southwest often bills itself as the hometown airline because it carries more local passengers, defined as those who begin or end their trip in Phoenix.
American's passenger totals are significantly higher than Southwest's — 20.3 million in 2017 — due to the number of passengers who connect through its Phoenix hub. American has been shrinking in Phoenix since the 2013 merger of American and Tempe-based US Airways. Its passenger counts at Sky Harbor were down 1.8 percent in 2017.
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