The Southwest 'Effect'

Posted by: Ben Haskew on Friday, August 9, 2013
The date was March 13, 2011 and the whole region celebrated the first flights of Southwest Airlines (SWA) to GSP International Airport and the Upstate. This very special day followed an intense recruitment effort by a number of organizations, including the Greenville Chamber. What led to the attraction of Southwest was a number of factors. We were among the top five highest airfare markets in the nation. We were losing 67% of our passenger market to Charlotte and Atlanta. We literally had businesses van pooling employees to Charlotte to save on airfare costs. Fast forward 2 ½ years later and the numbers are greatly improved. We have recaptured much of our lost passenger market and we have been among the fastest declining airfare markets in the country. Airfares among all our carriers have gone down – that’s the Southwest ‘effect’. I’m struck by how many people tell me they wanted to fly Southwest but found a cheaper flight with another carrier. In simple terms, we as a community must do our very best to fill seats on Southwest flights. At summer’s end, two SWA flights will be eliminated – one to Orlando and one to Baltimore. We promised Southwest that we are a growing region that could support their model and I hope the business community as well as the leisure traveler will do just that. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels and assume someone else will board those flights. In October, the Chamber will take 50 business and community leaders to Pittsburgh for an Intercommunity Leadership Visit.  We will be flying Southwest Airlines. What can you do today to influence travel decisions around you?

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