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TravelSouthwest drops 4 cities from its route map

Southwest drops 4 cities from its route map

Southwest Airlines is shrinking its route map.

The carrier will ax four cites from its route map in August and will reduce its presence in two other major airports, the Dallas-based carrier announced Thursday in its quarterly earnings report.

The airports that will lose Southwest service are:

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  • Bellingham International Airport (BLI) in Washington
  • Cozumel International Airport (CZM) in Mexico
  • Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR)

The move to exit a market is a rare one for Southwest, which historically has made great efforts to avoid leaving a city that it’s added to its network.

Southwest’s entry into a new city is typically greeted with great fanfare. In fact, the term “Southwest effect” was coined by the U.S. Department of Transportation in a 1990s report looking at the effect the airline had on fares and competition after the carrier entered a new market.

Southwest last exited a market about five years ago, when it ended service to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Mexico City International Airport (MEX). The carrier, which flies to more than 120 airports today, has only left 11 airports during its 50-plus years of operation..

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In its latest market exits, Southwest pointed to the problems at Boeing – specifically the jetmaker’s inability to deliver aircraft on the schedule it had promised.

“The recent news from Boeing regarding further aircraft delivery delays presents significant challenges for both 2024 and 2025,” Southwest CEO Bod Jordan said in a statement accompanying the carrier’s first-quarter earnings.

“We are reacting and replanning quickly to mitigate the operational and financial impacts while maintaining dependable and reliable flight schedules for our Customers. To improve our financial performance, we have intensified our network optimization efforts to address underperforming markets. … I want to sincerely thank our Employees, the airports, and the communities for all their incredible support over the years.”

Southwest said it also plans to “significantly restructure other markets, most notably by implementing capacity reductions in both Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.”

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Southwest began flying to Atlanta in 2012 as part of its merger with Atlanta-based AirTran.

Southwest’s O’Hare service began just in 2021, bringing the carrier to an airport it had famously avoided for decades in favor of the city’s smaller Midway Airport (MDW), which will continue to operate as one of Southwest’s biggest and most important bases.

Similarly, Southwest had long avoided Houston’s busier Bush Intercontinental (IAH) as it grew the city’s secondary Hobby Airport (HOU) into one if its busiest airports. IAH had been one of Southwest’s original markets at its launch in 1971, but it ceased flying there in 1972 as its Hobby operation grew. Now, IAH will apparently have the distinction of the only airport that Southwest has left twice.

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