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March 29, 2004 -- Those screams you hear are coming from US Airways executives. Just a little too late for our Friday column on super-cheap domestic fares, Southwest announced a major expansion of their planned service to Philadelphia, which is turning Rocky's hometown into a true low-fare hub.

With the new flights, Southwest is now serving 12 destinations nonstop from Philly:

  • Chicago (starting May 9; roundtrips from $158)
  • Ft. Lauderdale (starting July 6; roundtrips from $158)
  • Houston (starting July 6; roundtrips from $198)
  • Las Vegas (starting May 9; roundtrips from $198)
  • Los Angeles (starting July 6; roundtrips from $198)
  • Manchester, NH (starting July 6; roundtrips from $58)
  • New Orleans (starting July 6; roundtrips from $198)
  • Orlando (starting May 9; roundtrips from $158)
  • Phoenix (starting May 9; roundtrips from $198)
  • Providence (starting May 9; roundtrips from $58)
  • Raleigh, NC (starting July 6; roundtrips from $58)
  • Tampa (starting May 9; roundtrips from $158)
  • West Palm Beach (starting July 6; roundtrips from $158)

More nonstop flights means more one-stop connections, too: the Los Angeles flight provides connections all the way up the West Coast, and the new Raleigh flights provide more options for Florida travelers. For a complete schedule of flight times and connections from Philadelphia for later this summer (after all the new flights take effect), see www.southwest.com/pdf_schedules/PHL/20040808R1.phl.pdf.

Call Them US Scareways

Why is Southwest expanding in Philly? They smell blood. Hometown carrier US Airways is flailing and the airline's management seems to be genuinely clueless as to how to save it, as evidenced by last week's hour-long video speech (http://usairways.internetstreaming.com/video) by US Airways' president free for the viewing to the American public. The summary: he feels their employees are paid too much. That's certainly part of the equation, but the speech is startlingly content-free when it comes to offering anything at all about what the airline should use to attract passengers.

Should it be the startling efficiency and cheery service of a Southwest? How about the hip attitude and entertainment options of a JetBlue? Would monsieur enjoy the globe-girdling range and comprehensive frequent flier program of a United? Or perhaps the strong regional focus of an Alaska Airlines? US Airways seems to know what they don't want to be (bankrupt and costly), but has few ideas as to what they do want to be. It's tough to inspire people with a purely negative message.

US Airways has been pretty good to budget leisure travelers recently. They have frequent, high-quality sales to domestic and European destinations from smaller East Coast cities like Harrisburg and Richmond that generally have pretty high fares otherwise. The real effect of a US Airways collapse wouldn't be felt in Philadelphia, but in those kinds of cities -- places Southwest is unlikely to serve any time soon, and certainly not with flights to Europe. If US Airways does indeed collapse, it'll be folks trying to fly on routes like Richmond to Glasgow who'll be most left out in the cold.

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