Looks like a renewed battle (everpresent) at Sky Harbor over this new plan by WN
Mentions it will be a second tier hub from DIA
Low-fare Southwest Airlines to offer flights to Denver
Flying to Denver is about to get a whole lot cheaper.
Southwest Airlines announced Thursday it will start serving Denver International Airport early next year, a move that is expected to drive down the price of airfare to the notoriously pricey destination.
A Southwest spokeswoman said the airline would not release information about destinations, flights or fares until late next week. But travel experts say it is likely Phoenix will be on the list of routes, given that Sky Harbor International Airport is a secondary hub for the Dallas-based airline.
Passengers not only will benefit from Southwest's low fares. They could see a dip in competing carriers, such as United Airlines, US Airways, Frontier Airlines and ATA Airlines, all of which fly between Denver and Phoenix.
"When Southwest enters into a new city, fares normally drop and demand goes up just because they are the low-cost carrier," said Gloria Neuharth, travel services operations manager for the AAA travel center in Arizona. "Other airlines will match their fares."
There are 25 daily non-stop flights between Phoenix and Denver, making it the fourth most popular destination behind Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Denver is tied with San Diego.
That shows a clear demand for flights to Denver, said Julie Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Sky Harbor. Southwest and US Airways are the airport's two largest carriers.
"Anything that's good for Southwest Airlines is good for Sky Harbor," she said. "They haven't specifically talked to us about routes to Denver, but we welcome any new air service for our passengers."
Brian Andrews, 34, of Phoenix, said he would a happy passenger if Southwest flew from Phoenix to Denver. He visits his wife's family there four times a year and regularly pays $300 or more for a ticket.
"That's like the most expensive place to fly," said Andrews, an architect. "Finally, there will be some competition that will get those prices down. I think it's great."
Andrews said he hopes the competition will spur his favorite airline, United, to lower its prices. But if Southwest's tickets were significantly cheaper, he would switch airlines. The only bad news, he said, is the flights won't start in time for his holiday vacation.
Southwest's arrival in Denver is most likely to affect Frontier Airlines, a discount airline based in that city.
Kristin Pichler, 35, of Chandler recently visited her sister in Denver for about $250 round trip. If she had her pick, she'd fly Southwest.
"Frontier is usually good, but we like Southwest because of the prices and they're so convenient," she said. You can "purchase tickets online with frequent flyer miles."
Southwest said it intended to start service in Denver late next year, but Hurricane Katrina accelerated its plans. The current reduction in flights to New Orleans frees up planes for new flights, Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said.
"Denver has been in the mix as a city we'd like to serve for quite some time," she said.
Southwest served the Denver area from Stapleton International Airport between 1983 and 1986, but it pulled out because the airport was too expensive and often had weather delays.
Eichinger said Denver International has reduced its rates and ranked first for on-time arrivals last year. New high tech instruments make it easier to land and take off in bad weather.
After Southwest started flying out of Philadelphia in May 2004, the average one-way fare between Philadelphia and Chicago Midway Airport fell 46 percent and traffic increased 137 percent in the third quarter. Fares to Chicago O'Hare fell 44 percent, too, even though Southwest does not fly there, the airline reported.
Southwest's stock closed at $15.07 Thursday, down 51 cents or 3 percent. After Southwest's announcement, low cost rival Frontier saw its stock drop 29 percent, or $3.08 cents, to close at $7.68.