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SOUTHWEST AND LAGUARDIA: START SPREADIN’ THE….POSSIBILITY????

Employee
Employee

Brace yourselves.

Today Southwest Airlines announced our intention to bid to begin service to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport.

Yes.  You read that correctly.  Southwest plans to pursue a bid to start service to LaGuardia Airport.  This isn’t just big news, it’s huge.  GINORMOUS!  I think h-e-double-hockey-sticks just froze over…and I am certain a number of my friends in this industry have yet to pick their jaws up off of the floor!

For those of you that aren’t familiar with LaGuardia Airport (LGA), it’s the most centrally located of New York City’s three major airports.  Flying into or out of LGA is guaranteed to put you in a “New York state of mind,” from the views of the Manhattan skyline on your approach or departure right down to the airport’s name itself—Fiorello LaGuardia helped build the airport in the 1930’s while he was mayor of New York City.  Located in the borough of Queens, right on the “scenic” waters of Flushing Bay and close to Shea Stadium, it’s the closest major airport to Manhattan.  What Love Field is to Dallas, Hobby Airport is to Houston, and Midway Airport is to Chicago, LaGuardia Airport is to New York City. 

In the category of SWA/LGA history, we’ve been asked for as long as I can remember (and I’ve been here 18 years) to add LGA as a destination, but until now it just wasn’t a realistic opportunity.  As many of you know, LGA is one of only four airports in America that are slot controlled, meaning you literally have to have a slot (or legal authority) to schedule an arrival or a departure.  These slots are specific down to the half-hour that an airline can schedule a landing or takeoff, and are very finite—only a certain amount are allowed in any thirty-minute period.   And while you can buy, sell, and trade them, because of the airport’s popularity, LGA slots are in HUGE demand and are seldom available at any price.  Further, because they don’t always come in arrival with departure combinations that would enable a Southwest-style operation, being able to secure arrival/departure slots that can be “stitched together” in such a way to enable us to begin enough service to make it economically viable for Southwest wasn’t realistic, let alone easy. We’ve known for years how huge the immediate New York City market was, but we didn’t have a realistic way to shoe-horn ourselves in.

Until now.

You all remember our former codeshare partner, ATA Airlines, who ceased operations in April of this year.  They provided service between LaGuardia and our major base at Chicago’s Midway airport (and, for a while, to Houston/Hobby). In the three-plus years we were codeshare partners we got a very good look at the potential of LGA’s connectivity to the Southwest network—but it was like Tantalus’ torture, forever hungry and thirsty but never able to eat or drink.  With ATA’s partnership we were able to experience what a great fit LGA would be for Southwest from a revenue and traffic perspective but still weren’t able to serve it with our own People and aircraft.  Even after ATA’s demise, we couldn’t immediately try to begin service to LGA (even though our aircraft are perfectly suited to serving LGA) because ATA’s LGA slots were tied up in their bankruptcy  proceedings and didn’t immediately become available.

However, in the past month or so, a light was turned on at the end of our LaGuardia-less tunnel.  The bankruptcy court in Indiana (where ATA was headquartered) published their procedures to bid on ATA’s remaining business, including their 14 LGA slots—which would equate to 7 daily arrivals and departures at LGA, and are in close enough time proximity to each other to not destroy Southwest’s efficiencies.  What today’s announcement means is that we have formally made a bid—which, if approved by the court, will enable Southwest Airlines to be able to expand with our own Red Bellied Birds into a market that we first developed via our ATA codeshare.
 
Now, again, guys—this isn’t a done deal.  At this point it’s only a bid that would allow us to assume ATA's slots, so we’re not ready to talk about where we’ll fly and things like that.  But Southwest service to New York’s LaGuardia Airport is now a definite possibility, so you can start spreading the news!  Of course, we’ve got a lot to learn about how to schedule, and operate, within a slot-controlled environment—but those should be easy learning curves to climb.  
 

 

61 Comments
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Bill, This is great news. As a fellow SWA employee I haven't understood the "backlash" to our codeshare announcements and the accusations that SWA isn't committed to growing with our own planes and employees. This announcement coupled with MSP starting in March just reiterates we have a very loooong way to go in the Domestic market as we try to accomplish our stated goal: World Domination. There are dozens of places to serve in the US that we as an airline are absent from. These announcements assure me that Gary is "cautiously aggressive" and in 20 years we'll be thanking him for guiding us through this tough economic time. We might even name a plane after him..... Adam @ BWI
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Exciting news for those who have been looking for Southwest at LaGuardia, and it will be even more fun to see how the industry reacts if the bid is succesful, but what about operational efficiency? Even if the slots can be made to work with Southwest's quick-turn operations, that's assuming the airport itself manages to operate efficiently, which it generally doesnt. There's a reason those in the industry call the airport "La Garbage", and not just because it's built on a former (and slowly sinking into the East River) landfill. The airport isn't exactly known for timely performance on a good day, and in the winter? Fugeddaboutit.
Employee
Employee
Adam, thanks! This represents an incredible--a historic, to be honest--opportunity for Southwest. We are thrilled to be able to continue to grow our Company, even in extremely difficult economic times. And Anonymous (what's with you guys not putting your names in the "Your Name" slot on the comment form, anyway???), trust me, we're well aware of the difficulties of operating at LGA. not only has Schedule Planning studied, and visited, the facility at length, we have four, count 'em, four, native New Yorkers in Schedule Planning, including our Director who grew up in Queens less than a mile from LGA. So we know--and we're working to design our schedule in such a way that while it still is Southwest-efficient, and offers convenience to our Customers, it won't degrade the operational performance of the rest of the System. We're doing all we can to be ahead of the curve here. However--what do youse guys think? We're all ears! Keep those comments coming, folks! Bill
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Wow!!! What another exciting historical moment for our great Company! I can attest, since I have worked in Reservations for 21 years, that LGA is an airport that our Customers have requested over and over again. What an exciting possibility for Southwest Airlines, our Customers and our shareholders!!! I am keeping my fingers crossed that we win that bid!
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So when I heard another city was possible, I thought Cincinnati. Just goes to show I'm a little locked into "old" Southwest thinking. ;-) I'm sure I'm not the only one who sent out an announcement email, to friends and family, with the title, "Holy S&%$" and have received lots of comments with, "YAY!!!" in the response. Wow!
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Huge news! I recently had to fly to visit northeast New Jersey on business, but because Islip was not a practical choice, had to fly another airline. I've got my fingers crossed that the Feds and the court allow this. Of course, the next big speculation... which station (if any) besides MDW gets some flights?
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Good Luck!! I hope you're successful in getting slots there. I would fly you to NY!
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Bill, if I am reading this correctly, it sounds like SWA is primarily interested in providing MDW-LGA service if the slots can be secured. I would hope that SWA is seriously considering BWI-LGA service for all the Southwest luvers in the eastern part of the country, for whom connecting through Chicago is somewhat unrealistic. Nevertheless, I trust that the smartest minds in the business are working hard to answer all of these questions right now!
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I agree. Don't just fly to MDW. BWI is necessary for it to be conveinant for those in the east as MDW makes you fly away from your destination and then have to turn around again and go back while BWI is a straight shot for FL, the SE, and the Midwest.
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Bullseye. Not JFK. Not EWR. LGA. Bravo. Today, Willie Sutton must be smiling for Southwest. If Southwest is true to its goal of attracting the Business Traveler, following Willie's reasoning, the three biggest targets remaining must be NY, DCA and BOS. Still, silence re DCA and BOS. Re DCA, Item "18" in the official filing that curbcrusher put in FlyerTalk says that the DCA slots were carved out of the bid for ATA. Why? Is Southwest maneuvering for them on another track? Re BOS, what about Mr. Kelly's personal visit to Boston, reported in the airport's "Travel New England" newspaper. It looked like he and the Massport CEO were all but announcing Southwest's landing. Are DCA and BOS coming soon? If they are, it would be a grand slam. Then Willie Sutton ought to be the guest of honor at Southwest's 2009 Hallowe'en party. For now, again, bravo.
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Good Luck!! This is very exciting news and certainly a huge opportunity to access the largest travel market in the country. With only 7 slot pairs and very limited opportunity to grow those out it seems a difficult situation to leverage as you have such limited capacity to work with and no opportunities to expand if (when!) things go well there. It also means I've got a chance to finally be in a Southwest town. Yippee!! Between NYC and Minneapolis you've got your route planning crew working hard on making things line up correctly. Good on you for that.
Active Member
Bill, This is exciting news, both for us as a Company AND for our Customers! Having flown into LaGuardia a number of times myself (unfortunately, it was on another aairline), I can attest to its wonderful proximity to Manhattan. Just like the comparison between DAL and DFW, the location, the congestion and the hassle of LGA versus JFK makes it a great choice for trips to New York City! To the naysayers who aren't happy with LGA either, please remember that you can choose to look at the glass as either half empty or half full. I prefer to choose the latter. I hope we are successful in getting those slots! And while I'm writing, we can't ever say enough about the awesome job that Bill and his Team do for this airline. So many people take our schedule for granted, but the efficiency and seamless connectivity across the country doesn't happen by accident and isn't a fluke. It is the result of a lot of hard work, which will get even more complex if and when we make LGA number 66 on our route map. Congratulations for a job well done! As some fella used to sing, "Start spreading the news..." Kim CRBB, a Texan who also "hearts" NY 🙂
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Firewind, We asked your question with Bob Montgomery, our Vice President of Properties who has been leading our effort on this. Here is Bob's response: We have no desire to operate in DCA at this time, and it had more value to ATA than to us. Therefore, its exclusion had the effect of increasing the value of our bid to ATA.
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I hope this does not mean that SWA is looking to leave ISP flat. With no other carriers at ISP this would leave the airport with no airlines.
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of course this is huge. we're putting all the chips in the right place. some might think that with herb gone gary has no clue. but, i'm sure there's a reason herb wanted him there. if i was a betting man, which i'm not (because i only go to vegas once a week) i bet he's just getting ready for all those code-shares. that way we can gain some experience before we fly intl' flts ourselves. that gary knows what he's doing just....just wait and see....best thing is to have a little faith. and bill...i'm gonna leave my name anonymous cuz i don't want to get charged at by the angry mob that's picketing! just kidding.
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How about servicing the following cities from LGA: MDW MCO FLL STL BNA And, to eat NWA for breakfast: MSP
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This is exciting!!! Kudos to Southwest!!! Pilots, are you fuming over this???? I hope you're happy that your airline is growing and you can fly to at least 1 more destination after MSP.
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This news literally caused me to jump up and down like a 4 y/o. Not only do I have many friends who live in New York who travel to Chicago often and are "forced" to take jetBlue, American, and United (yikes), but as a flight attendant I hear customers say all the time that they wish we'd fly into New York besides Long Island. And for those that say LGA is a "s&#$ hole", remember how Midway used to be....and OKC...and ISP...and... Airports evolve and improve...especially after WE get ahold of them. Good luck and great job to the SWA family members that are trying to make this a reality!
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That is great news.... after the 14 slots are awarded are you able to apply for more slots as your business grows in that market?
Active Member
Francisco is back!!!! Welcome back, buddy! 🙂
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I hope BNA is one of the cities chosen for LGA, we are within the 1500 mile radius and could really use some competition up against the other aairline flying the BNA-LGA route.
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When can I book My tickets? Great News!!! While we are on the topic of your former codeshare partner, ATA, they are still listed along with their "ATA Vacation Destinations" in your current Spirit Mag.
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Bravo, mazel tov and yipppee! As a longtime New Yorker, I have long lamented the absence of Southwest in the NYC market (ISP being just too bleedin' far for those of us non-driving city dwellers). LaGuardia is not the greatest of airports, but it is FAR from the worst. And, like a few other commenters mentioned, it is much closer to Manhattan and much less aggravating than pain-in-the-a** JFK or EWR. I've been a loyal Southwest flyer for more than a decade--unlike just about every other carrier out there, Southwest has never let me down. Thanks for this very exciting news! AP
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It's about time
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Still no Hawian Flights? I know ATA was big over there.
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Oh Happy Day!! Our son lives in New York - our entire family is dedicated to flying Southwest and could not be happier to have a better way to get to New York CIty from Chicago. Thank you! Now go get that deal done!
Employee
Employee
Regarding ISP--guys, Islip is a GREAT market, in and of itself. Nearly 4 million people leave closer to ISP than the other NYC area airports--so that's not a market we intend to abandon! Things may fluctuate up and down seasonally--but we have no plans reduce things. We wouldn't have built the new terminal if we had!!!!! Bill
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This announcement could be bigger than the Malice in Dallas, Bigger than New York itself. The commander in chief of my great company, Southwest, has decided to take on the Big Apple. Personally, I think it's a great move. Even though initally they will only offer 7 flights a day, WE GOT OUR FOOT IN THE DOOR. Just imagine what could happen if the Southwest effect occurs in NYC? Cheap fares for everyone!!!!
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LaGuardia also has a perimeter restriction of 1500 miles. Because of that restriction, this decision kind of surprised me. I'm a little surprised that Southwest isn't considering or trying to get into HPN.
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Bill, LGA is great news! Dealing with LGA and the slots will be a walk in the park for you in HDQ/SP. God knows you have had plenty of practice with with SNA (hahaha)and PHL to have no sweat getting the perfect ac flows into LGA. 7 Flights a day. I can see 3 LGA-MDW n/s a day. From LGA to MDW depart at 6:00AM-7:55am, 12:05pm-2:00pm and at 6:20pm-8:35pm. From MDW to LGA depart at 8:20am-11:40am, 2:25pm-5:55pm and at 9:00pm-12:20am...Then i can see 4 LGA-BWI n/s a day. From LGA to BWI Depart at 6:45am-8:20am, 10:50am-12:25pm, 3:00pm-4:35pm and at 7:05pm-8:40pm. From BWI to LGA Depart at 8:50am-10:25am, 12:55pm-2:35pm , 5:05pm-6:40pm, and at 9:10pm-10:45pm.Well what ever you have planned for LGA i can't wait to see it. on a side note bring back the MDW-SNA nonstop and start BURBANK- SFO already...haha jaison.
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Simply marvelous darlings....... Here in ISP we are all very excited about the new bid. If you all only knew how many pax there really are, that take the shuttle to the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) to get into NYC on a daily basis. The number is incredible. We have huge NYC customers!! Having worked in the baggage service office for years now, trust me, they come in everrrrrry day!!! And they luv SWA. And I personally dont think LGA is going to fall into the East River anytime soon. Thanks for all you do. LV/ISP
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I would like to see southwest next city be Boston Logan International Airport. I know that they already fly into Manchester but I want to fly into Boston that way I would not have to pay for the shuttle bus to Boston or rent a car. I think that Boston would be a good city for Southwest.
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Warrio3634 - Your comment is my favorite of the day! Thank you 🙂
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Let's see some service to the southerners.....Charlotte, NC or Columbia, SC or Augusta, GA, or Charleston, SC!!!
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Thanks, Brian. Mr. Montgomery has debunked DCA. I still disagree. But there's been nothing said about BOS. I think BOS is next. In another vein, as the picture gets clearer, the question becomes clearer: What is going to be the gateway for the Europe codeshare? It simply won't be LGA, and I pray that it won't be JFK or EWR, requiring crosstown van service (as some airlines used to do for "connecting" flights). I do hope that it will be IAD, and that there will be LGA slots for IAD. And with Mr. Montgomery debunking DCA, it seems that IAD becomes even more important in various respects -- not least, Southwest's Business Traveler initiative. Then again, it could be MDW. But at some point, Southwest would have to acknowledge that it has (*cough*) hubs. Why does BWI keep coming into this discussion? Is it because Southwesterners are used to it? Thanks again.
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Having spent 49 years with airplanes (6 USAF, 25 Eastern, 18 Southwest) I can look back and compare several things. There once was a very successful airline within an airline called the Eastern Air Shuttle serving BOS, LGA, and DCA. In the days of Rollin King and a very young Herb a similar operation with 4 aircraft (later only 3) started between DAL, SAT, and HOU. Look at it today with 537 aircraft. I truly cheer the Southwest effort to break into the LGA market as the need for the SWA operation into that area has never been more evident. Hang in there guys. Let the SWA spirit prevail.
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That would be so great! I live in NYC, and Islip's just too far of a schlep. I did have the chance to fly SWA last year (via ATA codeshare), and would be thrilled to fly SWA again.
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Don't just do MDW! Spread it around! Norfolk - LaGuardia! NYC is ORF's #2 market - 165,000 passengers annually - and this would grow even larger because ORF residents wouldn't have to drive over to PHF to get AirTran to LGA. Bring low fare NYC service to Norfolk! Go Southwest!!!
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I really do hope that you add BWI since it is basically the connecting node for the east coast. If you do IAD and MDW or FL and MDW as many sources are speculating you're going to cut off most of your east coast customers from being able to travel to your newest city with any kind of convenience because MDW is backtracking for the eastern and part of the central time zone, IAD cuts off places like Nashville, Louisville, etc.(wish places like IAD,IND, and STL were more open), and FL is back tracking and could be more easily served through BWI which like I said would allow more connectivity to LGA. So all of that said....PLEASE serve BWI. You could do 3 BWI and 4 MDW or vice-versa and that would open almost your entire route network to LGA while all of this other speculation would not and therefore wouldn't be fair.
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It was a master stroke. By not simply going after the LGA slots, Southwest was able to 'keep 'em guessing' about the real intent of their pursuit of ATA. Did they want more MDW? Did they want 737-800s? The speculation circled round and round, when in fact that real focus of the interest were those 14 slots at LaGuardia...no more, no less. And what better time to march into the Lion's Den of New York City than when legacy carriers are all pretty much discombobulated themselves and really unable to mount a counter-strike? These legacy carriers were just getting over the whole fuel-hedging master stroke by Southwest; now this.
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Bill-I can only dream that you will eventually serve PIT from LGA. I am trying to rid myself of US Airways but haven't been able to completely. This would put me one step closer. Back in the day, three airlines flew between PIT and LGA. Right now there is just one.
Employee
Employee
All of us in Schedule Planning are really loving the ongoing dialogue about where we should fly and how we should "spend" the LGA slots. Of course, we have our plan--which we're not ready to reveal yet--but some of you guys (or ladies) ought to apply for some of the open positions in Schedule Planning. Yes, folks, we're hiring--go to southwest.com/careers! **grin** Thank you all for your support, and for your enthusiasm. Get ready, NYC--you've not seen ANYTHING like Southwest! Bill
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Let me add my name to the list hoping for the LGA-BNA connection!
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this is wonderful news i am asthmatic and allergic to pets.my parents moved to fla. i was never able to fly there because airlines have pets on board. sw is the only airline that understands the needs of severe allergies and asthmatic reaction to pets onboard. this is going to give me wings to make my dream come true to see them again!let me be your first customer to fly from lga to pbi! go southwest!
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Mr. Owen, point taken. ;-) And the point is being made over on FlyerTalk that the LGA-MDW run is really going to be the rainmaker. So, re >>Get ready, NYC--you've not seen ANYTHING like Southwest!<< ...conversely, I've got to believe that it's also going to be like heroin to Southwest. Viva the Business Traveler. (And Willie Sutton.) Anything about BOS? (I keep hoping that those drumbeats in the distance aren't just mine echoing off the walls in this empty room...)
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Another NYC resident here looking forward to Southwest service! If that perimeter restriction ever gets lifted, I'll place a vote for either SFO or OAK.
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Great job Bill and to your team. This is very exciting news serving LGA. and to Gary Kelly Thank You for a job well done . I know LGA will be a great addition for your business travelers. Maybe BOS, CLT next maybe??
Active Member
Bill, I think we should inaugurate service from LGA to 1E2. Now that I've sent our millions of readers off on a search to figure out where that is, I can tell you that Terlingua Ranch Airport, near Alpine, would be the perfect place to bring folks to attend the annual Terlingua International Chili Championship, http://www.chili.org/terlingua.html , since they can't get a bowl of red like that in Nu Yawk Citee! Don't Mess With Texas! Kim CRBB -- make mine two-alarm, Wick 🙂
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I agree with expanding at MSP even if it is short haul flights like going to Denver (for people to and from the west coast) and St Louis (for people going to and from the South) There is no redundency if Chicago is closed which happens in the winter since they are right next to the lakes.
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For all of the people clammoring for east coast routes, we need some more bicoastal flights....PLEASE do consider a PHX-LGA route. Our options are ridiculously limited and there are so many west coasters who fly back and forth on a weekly basis. We LUV your service cross country and wouldn't have it any other way...but if I have to fly through MDW in the winter to get to LGA, it's not gonna be worth it