With renovations to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s Terminal One and Concourse A nearing completion, Southwest Airlines loaded into its summer schedule on Thursday several new international destinations from the airport.
The carrier also announced restoration of its dormant Orlando-Fort Lauderdale service and exciting new routes out of Tampa/St Pete, Panama City and Pensacola.
Southwest will add service from Fort Lauderdale to Cancun (a route already served by JetBlue and Spirit), Montego Bay (also a route already served by JetBlue and Spirit) as well as Belize City. The airline has also applied to serve Grand Cayman nonstop beginning in the summer.
In theory to feed the new operation which also includes existing service to three Cuban cities, Nassau and San Juan, Southwest is restoring Orlando-Fort Lauderdale flights with five daily nonstops. This to me makes zero sense unless it is a preemptive strike against All Aboard Florida (which it might be). Southwest long offered nearly hourly service on the Orlando-Fort Lauderdale route, but terminated it completely in early 2012 thanks to fuel prices and diminishing loads. The carrier is also adding Fort Lauderdale nonstop service to Washington’s Dulles Airport now giving the airline nonstop service to all three major airports in the Baltimore/Washington area from Fort Lauderdale.
Southwest’s international flying from Fort Lauderdale is within the vicinity of the Caribbean (and Florida), featuring mostly leisure destinations. Rumors that Southwest would target a JetBlue market or two in South America (which rely more on ethnic traffic and business contracts) from Fort Lauderdale proved ill-founded but still could happen down the road. JetBlue serves five South American cities nonstop from Fort Lauderdale. Spirit Airlines also serves five South American destinations nonstop from Fort Lauderdale.
In addition, the airline added service from Tampa to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, an under-served route pair where Southwest who has the largest presence at Tampa Int’l should do well. Southwest also will add weekly service from Austin to Panama City and from Denver to Pensacola during the summer months, giving Northwest Florida a fist-ever nonstop link to the Rocky Mountains.
Southwest has gradually been pulling away from small markets and will discontinue service to Dayton and Akron/Canton Ohio with this schedule release. However, Pensacola and Panama City, two smaller Florida markets remain viable for the airline.
This schedule extension was for summer 2017. The winter schedule is which corresponds with the delivery of new 737 MAX aircraft should see even more additions for the state of Florida.