Southwest flies high, increasing presence in air market here
By Chris O'Malley
July 11, 2001
Southwest Airlines is adding more flights to Florida in another sign of the low-fare carrier's growing presence at Indianapolis International Airport.
Starting in October, Southwest will add another nonstop flight to Tampa and to Orlando. Both flights will continue to West Palm Beach.
Besides added frequency, Southwest has been carving out a bigger market share here. In the first four months of 2001, Southwest was the third-busiest carrier in Indianapolis, with 13.3 percent of total traffic.
That's up from early 2000, when it was the sixth-busiest carrier, with 9.1 percent of traffic.
Southwest is closing in on No. 2 American Trans Air, which has 14.9 percent of traffic, and No. 1 US Airways, with 15.1 percent of passengers.
The increasingly fragmented market share in Indianapolis amounts to more competition and, theoretically at least, lower fares.
In the early 1990s, US Airways was by far the dominant airline in Indianapolis, with about 41 percent of traffic.
Cities dominated by one carrier tend not to sport the best fares.
Indianapolis' average fare is $166. In Pittsburgh, which is dominated by US Airways, the average fare is $210, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
It's even worse at US Airways' hub at Charlotte, N.C., at $248. In Cincinnati, which is dominated by Delta Airlines, the average fare was $244 in the fourth quarter of 2000.
"It gives us that mix of carriers so that we don't have to live in fear of one carrier yanking our chain all the time,' said Dennis Rosebrough, spokesman for BAA Indianapolis, which manages Indianapolis International.
That it is low-fare Southwest leapfrogging in market share can't hurt, either. "They have a great effect on keeping air fares low,' said Donna Winter, manager of Allen Travel in Carmel.
"Southwest moving up (in rank) is a big deal,' said Patrick Dooley, vice president of business development at BAA Indianapolis.
Dooley said other carriers have adjusted prices to match Southwest to destinations such as Baltimore. Since Southwest added nonstop service to Baltimore, traffic among all carriers serving that market from Indianapolis rose 45percent between the third quarter of 1999 and the same period in 2000, according to BAA.
Southwest, with 21 daily departures at Indianapolis, also has more nonstop destinations -- to 11 cities. That's about twice as many as each of its biggest competitors here, who instead feed many of their flights through a main hub.
Southwest does not, however, cater to business travelers who demand first-class seating.
Its presence here also brings no relief for those who fly to cities where there is little competition and thus higher fares from Indianapolis.
"If you want to go to Atlanta from Indianapolis, your first step is to call your banker for a loan. That hasn't changed,' said Michael Boyd, president of The Boyd Group, a Colorado aviation consulting company.
"Our weakness is we're not a hub. Our strength is we're not a hub, because it gives us diverse market share,' said John J. Dillon, director of Mayor Bart Peterson's task force to improve non-stop air service.
Dillon's team has been bombarding airlines with data that show there is demand for more flights to such cities as Hartford, Conn.; Seattle; and San Diego. City officials intent on turning Indianapolis into a high-tech hotbed also have been trying to get nonstop service to Austin, Texas. END OF STORY
I wonder if Southwest, after adding the new flights to Florida, will ease past US Airways to having the number 1 market share.
I noticed the article stated that Southwest had 21 daily flights, so I assume the 2 new Florida flights will push that up to 23. Southwest's website states "Southwest Airlines uses gates A1, A2, and A3 on the A concourse." for IND, so it looks like they could add 7 or 8 more flights, but then they would need more gates.
I was surprised by that last bit in the article that stated the folks in IND were looking to get a non-stop flight to AUS. I don't see a market between the two cities, but maybe they could do a IND-AUS-SAN, since SAN is also on IND's "wish list", much like they do the SAN-AUS-RDU flights now. I don't know what the loads are like on the SAN-AUS-RDU flights, but Southwest just added a second flight in each direction in April, I believe, so it must be doing well.
Maybe I'm wrong, but it also seems like these kinds of routings help Southwest in the on-time departmnet. I noticed last year, when I was flying home from OAK, the last leg of my trip was on a Southwest flight LAX-AUS-TPA. The LAX-AUS segment was full and when we got to AUS, where I got off, about 60-65 other passengers deplaned and it looked like there were about that many in the gate area waiting to board the continuation of the flight to TPA.
I guess my point is that the turn at AUS seemed to go really quick (I watched) because they only had to unload and reload half the plane. For the intermediate cities (like AUS) it's great because we get 737 service to places that might otherwise only have enough traffic to warrant service using regional jets.