It looks like right now there is only 1 vacant gate at RIC. I don't think Southwest would start new service with just one gate. They usually get at least 2. Somewhere on the above site was a news story that was titled "More gates=more competition" or something like that, and it mentioned that the one available gate at RIC would be perfect for a regional carrier, so I'm not sure how big it is. (I got the impression it was only big enough to handle a regional jet, but I could be wrong.)
RIC is planning on adding a 7 gate concourse but I don't think the new gates will be ready until late summer of 2002 and whatever new city Southwest picks, they are intending to start service there this fall. So if Southwest were to pick RIC, where would they get the gates?
ORF is also in the middle of a big expansion project that will include a new arrivals terminal with 5 baggage carousels and a 9 story parking garage. Both of these are expected to be completed in mid 2002. Once the new arrivals terminal opens, the 2 existing baggage carousels in the main terminal will be dismantled and that area is supposed to be converted into additional ticket counter space.
HOWEVER, (And this is why I would pick ORF over RIC) according to ORF's website the current gates are not expected to reach capacity until sometime after 2015, so that would lead me to believe that Southwest could get gates immediately - they'd just have to deal with limited ticket counter space until ORF's expansion project is completed in about a year.
Since Southwest would probably only start out with about 10-12 flights a day, I don't think they'd need that much ticket counter space anyway. If the intial flights did well, they could add more flights and get additional ticket counter space as ORF's expansion projects are completed.
BTW, maybe someone familiar with ORF could answer a question. If you look at ORF's passenger acitivity for the past 10 years, you'll notice that in 1994 there was a huge (percentage-wise) increase in passenger activity. It went from under 3 million to 3.4 million. The following year, however, traffic was way down again and for 2000, passengers totals were just over 3 million. About 3,053,000, which is still about 400,000 fewer passengers than the airport had in 1994. So why was there a huge increase in passenger activity in 1994 and why did traffic fall off in subsequent years?
Regarding the rumors about CVG, it would initially make sense since Delta is having trouble with Comair, but then again, that seems a little devious for Southwest. I mean, they don't really have a reputation for playing hardball or using dirty tricks like some other AAirlines. But what about DAY? Isn't there a whole unused concourse there that used to be occupied by Piedmont when they operated a hub from there. I think Heartland was going to use that space but now Heartland is history, or at least is not going to be inaugurating service as soon as they initially planned. If Southwest picked DAY they could probably steal a lot of CVG passengers without actually having to begin service there.
Here's another little interesting (to me) tidbit. Go over to http://www.airports.org and look at the preliminary rankings for 2000 in terms of passengers. Look at all the airports in the 100-200 range (100th busiest to 200th busiest airports in the world.) Of those airports which are in the US - and there are a lot of them- Southwest flies to every single one of them except 3. #130 MKE, #146, RSW, and #200 ORF. (DISCLAIMER: I don't think all airports submit figures to airports.org, though, as I could find no info on airports such as PVD, LBB, AMA, HRL, CRP, etc.)
Anyway, I can't wait to see what Southwest's decision will be.
Leaders are skeptical of regional airport plan
"Wiegand said that Virginia may soon benefit from Southwest as well. He said he expects the airline to announce in the next six months that it will begin flying out of Norfolk, Newport News or Richmond."