Southwest Adding Service In Florida, St. Louis

Southwest Airlines announced today that it will begin service to the new airport in Panama City, Fla., in May 2010 and that it is expanding again in St. Louis.

By adding nine daily flights in St. Louis, Southwest steps into a void created by American Airlines, which announced drastic cuts there last month. American now has 82 flights daily from St. Louis to 29 cities; next summer it will have only 36 flights daily to nine cities.

Southwest will also begin eight flights a day, two each to four cities, from the new airport opening in Panama City, Fla., next May. Those destinations will be revealed in December, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced.

The deal in Panama City carries little risk for Southwest. A “strategic alliance” with The St. Joe Company, a Florida real-estate development company, will protect Southwest from losing money on the service for two years, Kelly said.

Southwest has added four new cities this year: New York, Boston, Minneapolis / St. Paul and Milwaukee. Kelly has said the company will continue looking for opportunities to expand its route system but expects to keep capacity flat through 2010. So look for more schedule trimming in other cities.

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