Southwest begins selling flights to Savannah

Coastal city represents second Georgia destination for Dallas carrier

Southwest Airlines on Thursday began selling flights to Savannah that take off next year, part of an effort to drum up some business amid the steep declines in travel due to COVID-19.

Dallas-based Southwest has been flying to Atlanta since 2012 and is the second-largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport behind Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. But up until now, Southwest had no other Georgia city on its route map.

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Southwest plans to launch flights to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport on March 11 from five cities across its network, but not from Atlanta, which is roughly a four-hour drive away.

The first routes will be from Baltimore/Washington International, Chicago Midway, Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby and Nashville.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said while reporting the company’s financial results last month that the airline is adding nine new destinations over the next three quarters, including Sarasota/Bradenton in Florida and Savannah. He said that can help generate more revenue with minimal extra cost, and puts “idle aircraft and excess staff back to work.” And, he said, “I’m happy to play offense.”

Southwest is known as a low-cost carrier with a mostly domestic route network and a relatively strong financial position. Large network carriers like Delta, American and United have historically reaped the biggest profits from corporate travelers and international flight networks — some of the hardest hit travel sectors amid the pandemic.

Kelly said last month that “we’ll just be blatant about this. This is an opportunity for us to gain share, to get back quicker than our competitors to where we were in terms of our operation.” He said Southwest is “the best suited for the current environment, which is more heavily weighted towards the consumer and leisure travel.”

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