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Southwest Airlines Is Betting Big on California Expansion

On Monday, Southwest unveiled 19 new non-stop routes to destinations in California. The airline also revealed plans to increase the frequency of dozens of other routes serving the Golden State.

Southwest Airlines is bullish on California. While the competition appears to have saturated the markets at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Southwest has quietly carved out a niche flying to the smaller, less well-served airports in the state as well. The airline has a substantial presence at Norman Y Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), Sacramento International Airport (SMF) and John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County.

Now, the Dallas-based carrier says it is doubling down on its plans to grow an already hefty stake in the region. Southwest says it is adding 19 new non-stop routes to the west coast with a focus on flights to SMF and SJC. The company says it will also increase the frequency of existing flights serving the two airports.

Southwest officials say that upping the ante on its California expansion plans feels like a safe bet – despite stiff competition from other carriers including Alaska Airlines which also has eyes on dominating the highly contested air travel market in the region.

“Number one, the economy is strong there, so that increases the demand for air travel,” Southwest Airlines VP Andrew Watterson told The Dallas Morning News on Monday. “Secondly, there are just unserved routes. These are connecting dots. We’re flying from these California cities to other cities where we’re also the hometown airline. When you’re the hometown on both sides, the risk is quite low. We think we can grow the market, get incremental traffic and the customer adoption will be high.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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dvs7310 August 31, 2017

Now if they only had a useful frequent flyer program like AS does. I haven't flown them in over 15 years for that very reason.

diver858 August 30, 2017

Nothing like competition to reduce fares. Much of the new AS intra-California services is on new E175's operated by OO, so expect a protracted battle.