"Dow Jones Business News
In Southwest Courtship, Lehigh Valley A Bridesmaid Again
Tuesday October 28, 6:54 pm ET
By Dinah Wisenberg Brin, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
PHILADELPHIA (Dow Jones)--After years of trying to attract Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE
:LUV - News) , the Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pa., is once again the bridesmaid.
Low-cost carrier Southwest announced plans Tuesday to start service at Philadelphia International Airport next May, with up to 14 flights a day initially. The company plans to announce the routes and fares in December.
"Obviously, we're somewhat disappointed that they did not decide to use our airport," George F. Doughty, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, which runs the Allentown facility, told Dow Jones Newswires.
"The industry is obviously very surprised by their choice of Philadelphia, except if you look at it in context of the vulnerability of US Airways right now. But they have to make their own business decisions, and we have to make ours," he said.
The Philadelphia airport is home to a major hub of troubled US Airways Group Inc. (NYSE
:U - News) .
The Lehigh Valley airport, currently served by low-cost carrier Southeast Airlines, is trying to attract other discount carriers as well, including JetBlue Airways Corp. (NasdaqNM:JBLU - News) , Spirit Airlines Inc. and Frontier Airlines Inc. (NasdaqNM:FRNT - News) , Doughty said.
Southwest's decision to expand to Philadelphia rather than Allentown may make another low-cost carrier warm to the idea of Lehigh Valley International, as other airlines may have been concerned about entering the market and then having Southwest follow them there, Doughty said.
That may be the silver lining for the Allentown airport, he said, adding, "It may give us a better opportunity with some other carriers."
The roughly 10-gate Lehigh Valley airport, with a target market of 6 million people within a 50-mile radius, still would like to host Southwest should the airline add cities in Pennsylvania in the future, he said.
The airport is about a 45-mile drive from the outskirts of Philadelphia.
-By Dinah Wisenberg Brin, Dow Jones Newswires; 215-656-8285; dinah"