US low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines has revealed its wholly-owned subsidiary AirTran Airways will introduce flights from Chicago Midway to Montego Bay in Jamaica and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic from April this year, subject to government approvals. The new services will operate on a four times weekly schedule with Montego Bay departures commencing on April 14, 2013 and the Punta Cana serve starting from May 19. 2013.
"These new international markets make sense for our Chicagoland customers as we approach connecting the Southwest and AirTran route networks in the coming months," said Bob Jordan, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Southwest Airlines and President, AirTran Airways. "AirTran and Southwest serve more than sixty destinations non-stop from Chicago and these additions open up new international options for those customers."
Southwest and AirTran currently operate a combined 200+ daily departures from Chicago Midway, ranking them as the two largest carriers at the facility by seat capacity. This month Southwest Airlines holds an 87.1 per cent share of the available seats, while AirTran Airways has a 4.4 per cent share, giving them a combined 91.6 per cent. This network is mainly focused on the domestic US market but does include flights to Cancun in Mexico, a route AirTran launched in June 2012.
When you consider the wider ‘Chicagoland’ market that Bob Jordan highlights and consider the operations at other airports in the area, including the city’s main international gateway at O’Hare and Gary and Rockford, Southwest Airlines remains the largest carrier although its marketshare is diluted 20.3 per cent, slightly more than the mainline business of hub carriers United Airlines (20.2 per cent) and American Airlines (16.5 per cent).
The new AirTran Airways flights will represent the first time Punta Cana has been served on a scheduled basis from Chicago Midway. Montego Bay has been linked previously to the airport but only on a limited seasonal schedule basis with American Trans Air offering flights between December 2002 and April 2003 and between December 2003 and April 2004.
However, Air Tran Airways will have indirect competition on the route from Chicago O’Hare International with American Airlines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines serving Montego Bay and Frontier Airlines and United Airlines flying to Punta Cana. Frontier Airlines also this winter introduced flights to both destinations from Rockford International for Apple Vacations and will serve both routes up until April this year.
In 2011 an estimated 3,000 O&D passengers travelled on indirect flights between Chicago Midway and Montego Bay and around 1,000 between Chicago Midway and Punta Cana. Similar figures for point-to-point demand from/to O’Hare International where there is direct air services is 32,000 from/to Montego Bay and 31,000 from/to Punta Cana.