Southwest Airlines’ vice president for network planning and performance, Andrew Watterson, reveals to our sister magazine, Routes News, what travellers can look forward to in the coming months.
Q) What is Southwest’s strategy towards route development?
A) "As we look at what markets we would like to add into our growing portfolio, we take a close look at everything from local to macro-economies, job trends, airport costs, performance trends, and of course customer demand. We then compare that information to our own strategic goals, plans, and availability of aircraft to determine if the route would fit within our unique brand."
Q) What sets Southwest apart in an increasingly crowded industry?
A) "Our customer-friendly policies, our people and our vastly different network strategy. We carry the most passengers in the US in terms of domestic passengers boarded, and we’re doing that with point-to-point routes that avoid some of the challenges of traditional hub-and-spoke operations."
Q) How important a role does Chicago Midway play as one of your focus cities?
A) "Midway is vital to our network. It is the largest station in our system, operating more than 250 daily departures to destinations across the country, as well as international. We will convert the remaining AirTran flights in November, bringing Southwest aircraft onto those routes. With the new flights, we will be adding more seats, and more low fares to Cancún, Punta Cana, and Montego Bay."
Q) What future plans do you have for Midway?
A) "Right now, we are focused on becoming Chicago’s hometown carrier by offering the right mix of destinations and frequencies. We are always looking at where we can go from there. On August 10, we launched service into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport with six daily roundtrip flights and we will increase that to nine times daily by the end of September. It’s an exciting time for us as we grow and we are keeping a close eye on market trends and customer demand."
Q) How is Southwest expanding its presence across the rest of the US?
A) "With the repeal of the Wright Amendment coming on October 13, we are very focused on bringing new non-stop service to our home airport, Dallas Love Field, starting with 15 new non-stop departures to exciting markets across the nation. The first seven flights start operating on October 13 and the remaining eight will launch on November 2. The flights will bring the service that so many of our customers have been demanding from us for years, and now it’s finally here! Beyond Dallas, we’re making sure that we are providing the mix of routes and frequencies that make the most sense and are most profitable. We watch the trends and add and subtract routes based on those factors."
Q) With new services recently launched to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Aruba, what are your intentions to expand further outside the US?
A) "We are actively analysing more than 50 potential destinations outside of the US, including cities across Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Northern Rim South America, and Canada."
Q) What is the biggest challenge facing aviation in the US?
A) "As fuel expense becomes a much larger input cost into airline performance, managing the volatility in the energy markets will continue to be the biggest challenge. Overall, the industry is healthy and any spike would quickly erode the industry performance we are currently observing. Additionally, we continue to closely monitor changes in the regulatory environment. Ongoing legislation and cost increases continue to put pressure on the overall business."
This article originally appeared in our sister magazine, Routes News.DON'T MISS the latest issues of Routes News which are available at this year's World Routes.