US low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines has released an initial flight schedule for a new daily non-stop service between Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport and Juan Santa Maria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. The route, which remains subject to the approval of the government of Costa Rica, will be its first into Central America and sixth country market to be served from the US.
The long-time domestic US operator embarked on its international expansion earlier this year when it took over some of the operations of established sister carrier AirTran Airways into the Caribbean, initially flying to three destinations from July 1, 2014. By the end of this year it will link the US to eight international destinations in five countries.
The proposed new route is due to launch on March 7, 2015 and Southwest Airlines has initially opened reservations for the first month of operations through to April 6, 2015. According to Southwest it anticipates strong point-to-point flows on the first-ever non-stop service on this routing but will also facilitate connections with 17 additional cities in the US via its Baltimore/Washington base.
Although Southwest Airlines will be the first to offer the link to San Jose from Baltimore/Washington, other links to Costa Rica’s capital are offered from the Washington market with United Airlines providing a link from Washington Dulles International using a Boeing 737-800, albeit with a much reduced schedule to that planned by the low-cost carrier.
Our analysis, below, highlights the sizeable demand between the Washington area and San Jose, despite the limited current non-stop flights between these markets. Over the past ten years between an estimated 51,000 and 72,000 bi-directional O&D passengers have flown in this market.
Southwest Airlines recently revealed strong traffic results for September 2014. The airline flew 8.3 billion revenue passenger miles (RPMs) in September 2014, a 5.1 per cent increase on September 2013. Available seat miles (ASMs) increased 0.7 per cent to 10.3 billion, while the September 2014 load factor was 80.5 per cent, compared to 77.1 percent in September 2013.
For the first nine months of the year, the carrier flew 81.3 billion RPMs, compared to 78.7 billion RPMs flown for the same period in 2013, an increase of 3.3 per cent. Year-to-date 2014 ASMs decreased 0.1 per cent to 98.4 billion with its 2014 load factor reaching 82.6 per cent, compared to 79.9 per cent for the same period in 2013.
It has been a busy year for the carrier as it concludes its integration with AirTran Airways. It recently revealed a refreshed corporate identity and this week is celebrating the end of the Wright Amendment, which finally permits it to expand its operations from Dallas Love Field.
The Wright Amendment, and its subsequent revisions, had limited Southwest Airlines to offering non-stop services from Dallas Love Field to just nine US states including Texas. The repeal of the federal law from this month rewrites the map by allowing Southwest to potentially serve an additional 41 states and the District of Columbia (Reagan National airport) from Love Field.
With effect from October 13, 2014, Southwest added flights from Dallas Love Field to Baltimore Washington International, Chicago Midway, Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando. From November 2, 2014, flights will also be added to Atlanta, Ft Lauderdale Hollywood International, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York LaGuardia, Orange County, Phoenix, San Diego, Tampa and Washington Reagan National, the latter using its recently secured slots at the airport.