It’s Media Day at Southwest’s Galactic Headquarters here in Dallas, and we have a LOT of news to share. 2010’s first new city….expansion at a long-time Southwest destination….once again Southwest is getting creative to respond to demand for our service!
The biggest news of the day is that Southwest intends to begin service at the brand-new International Airport being built near Panama City, Florida next May. We’re bringing low fares and GREAT service to the land of sugar-white-sand beaches, incredibly gentle blue waters, and an amazing variety of visitor accommodations just in time for vacation season, Summer, 2010! Up until Southwest’s arrival, this part of Northwest Florida has been plagued by high fares and a lack of full-sized airline service. We’re going to change that. Southwest’s entry into the Panama City market will make it possible for all of America to experience the incredible beauty of Northwest Florida!
While we’re not ready to announce specific service plans just yet (we’ll announce all the specifics this December, so stay tuned!), the "how" of our entry into the Florida Panhandle is as interesting as the "why." For the first time ever, we’ve formed a strategic alliance with a corporate partner to enable Southwest to bring a new airport onto our network. The corporate ally in this venture is our friends at the St. Joe Corporation, with whom we’ve been talking for over a decade. Even if the St. Joe name isn’t familiar, trust me, you know them. They are the largest landowner in the State of Florida, owning over a 600,000 acres of prime Florida Panhandle woodlands and beaches. They’re also developing world-class resort communities in the area including the award-winning, jaw-droppingly-beautiful "Watercolor" complex.
Lots of other local groups are also actively helping Northwest Florida launch its new international airport. Both the Bay County Tourism Development Council and the South Walton Tourism Development Council have stepped up to the plate to make the new airport a success, as has Coastal Vision 3000. If you’ve never visited the Panama City area, believe me, you have an incredible treat in store. I’m already planning my family’s vacation there next summer (whale watchers, take note….*gr*)!
In other big news about our May 2010 schedule, today Gary announced our intent to grow our St. Louis operation by adding new nonstop service in six markets, and additional flights in two others. We’ll be adding two new nonstop, roundtrip flights each weekday between St. Louis and both Los Angeles and Nashville; and one daily roundtrip between St. Louis and New Orleans; Raleigh/Durham; Seattle; and San Diego. (Sidebar to all of you nascent "schedule geeks" out there–St. Louis-Nashville service may be the single most frequently requested new market between existing Southwest airports during my 16 years in Schedule Planning. So, to all of you that have asked for this service through the years, this one’s for you–NOW KINDLY GO BUY A TICKET!!!!)
These additions come on the heels of our other recent St. Louis announcement that we’re adding new nonstop service between Lambert and both Boston and Minneapolis/St. Paul this coming January. In fact, we’re so pumped about our growth in St. Louis that we’ll add a third St. Louis-Minneapolis/St. Paul flight with all of the other new service in May. All told, by next may, we plan to be operating 83 weekday departures from our gates in Lambert-St. Louis International’s East Terminal (which is the newest and most modern terminal at Lambert!).
Again, all of this awesome new service in St. Louis and Panama City will begin next May, and will be available for sale this December. But don’t wait until December to check out this blog again–you never know what other surprises we’ve got in store for you!