There's now more LUV for sale! This morning we extended our booking window out to January 8, 2010, which (of course!) includes the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays. As with any new schedule opening, there are lots of little surprises in this one!
First and foremost--effective November 1, Southwest Airlines introduces our new Milwaukee service with nonstop service in six markets: three daily roundtrips to Baltimore/Washington, three to Kansas City, two each day to Las Vegas, two to Orlando, and one each to Phoenix and Tampa Bay. We'll also offer direct or connecting service to an additional 49 cities, so from the "get-go" we'll offer travel between General Mitchell International Airport and 55 Southwest Airlines destinations from sea to shining sea.
And if that's not exciting enough, we've done some interesting things this year with our Holiday schedules. I think everyone who travels over the Holidays knows that the Sunday following Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year. And this year, with both Christmas and New Year's falling on Friday, we expect the Sunday after both of those Holidays to be almost as busy as Thanksgiving Sunday. However, even with the extremely high demand on those days historically we've not been able to easily add as many flights as we wanted to accomodate all the folks who want to travel on peak Holiday dates because writing Sunday, and Holiday, schedules remained entirely manual.
However, in this insanely challenging and difficult environment, everyone at Southwest is on the lookout for any avenue to improve our prosperity. Why, we asked, can't we optimize these three, very busy Sundays separately, and let the Optimizer do the work of packing extra flights into the solution? After running it through our Integrated Planning group (and getting enthusiastic "go for it!" answers), that's exactly what we did. To illustrate--on a typical, non-Holiday Sunday this November and December, we've scheduled 2,878 daily departures. However, for New Year's Sunday we're packing in 3,145 flights; for Christmas Sunday we bump it up even more to 3,163 flights; and for the busiest Sunday of them all, we've scheduled 3,315 (!) departures for Thanksgiving Sunday!
Still, to make this work, we had to make some other changes. For example, up until now, the highest flight number we could use on a normal schedule was Flight Number 3999. By starting from scratch for these three days (in addition to the standard Monday *and* Saturday optimizations), we quickly ran out of flight numbers. So we upped the flight number limit to 5999--which sounds so innocuous, but you'd be amazed how much testing we had to do with dozens of other, internal computer systems to make sure they could handle flight numbers in that range! Several other processes had to be tweaked or monitored to make this work, particularly so that we didn't really tank the ability of our Crew Planning folks to create Crew pairings for our and Flight Attendants. However, we think it'll be worth it. After all, our goal is obvious--to meet your travel needs. It doesn't matter how much y'all LUV us if we don't have enough product on the shelf when you need it!
All of us are hoping we've given you even more opportunity to take a trip for the holidays. Go see the family or go have some fun......but just go! Happy booking, everyone....and let me be the very first to wish you Happy Holidays!