photo by YoLoPeyThis morning, Southwest Airlines announced that it Milwaukee, Wisconsin would be the fourth addition to its route network this year, following Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York LaGuardia, and Boston. Apparently, Southwest has been adding these new destinations without adding any new aircraft to its fleet; instead, it's been trimming unpopular services and shuffling around resources. "As we have previously announced, we essentially slowed our 2009 and 2010 fleet growth to zero," said Southwest President and CEO Gary Kelly. "All of these new market opportunities are made possible without the addition of a single airplane by our continuous flight schedule optimization process."
Southwest starts flying to Milwaukee on November 1, and it will put the airline (which already has a formidable presence at Chicago's Midway airport) up against Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines (formerly known as Midwest Express), which is partly owned by Northwest Airlines. While Northwest has been known to aggressively defend its turf against low-cost airlines, Southwest doesn't seem scared, having first started flying out of Minneapolis/St.Paul (a key Northwest hub) and now Milwaukee. AirTran also has a good number of flights out of Milwaukee and will have to compete as well.
But I think that Midwest is the airline that should really be concerned with this news. The airline has already retired a significant portion of its fleet and only has nine Boeing 717s left (the rest of its flying is outsourced to Republic and SkyWest as "Midwest Connect"), and if Southwest provides significant competition - which I expect it will - on routes out of Milwaukee, Midwest might not make it.