Will Southwest Airlines make a difference?

Southwest Airlines officials are holding a news conference this morning to announce the details of their entry into the Minneapolis St. Paul market. Included will be details on fares for the airline’s long Twin Cities-to-Midway(Chicago) route.

This is a route News Cut has been tracking since last winter when a competitor — AirTran — dropped the route. At the time, the round-trip fair was $114.

With presently no significant competition, Northwest is now charging $634 for a late November flight with a Saturday-night stayover. It’s $661 with the taxes and that doesn’t include the baggage fees, which Delta has now adopted.

Cracking the MSP market has always been hard; not just because Northwest has so many more flights, but because Northwest was “us.” It was a hometown airline. Now that it’s an Atlanta airline, it’ll be an interesting experiment to see if local passengers have any loyalty to the soon-to-be-wiped-out Northwest brand.

Southwest will enter the local market in March.

We’ll update the post after the news conference.

Update 10:55 a.m. From fareccompare.com and USA Today:

“We are likely to be in for some serious fireworks on prices out of Minneapolis in the coming days for Spring travel” Seaney wrote on his blog. He said the new Southwest route from Minneapolis to Chicago is priced at $69 one-way with a 21-day advance purchase.

He wrote that the cheapest fare on that route for Northwest, American and United is $426 one-way. They offer round trips for $376, which works out to $188 each way.

“The legacy airlines will quickly have to restructure their airfares, by offering one-way fares instead of the two-night minimum stay roundtrip fares they currently file _ likely matching Southwest’s new price points,” Seaney wrote.

Update 11:07 a.m. Here’s the Southwest press release:

Southwest Airlines today announced the carrier’s low fares and flight schedule from Minneapolis-St. Paul beginning on March 8, 2009. During a media conference at the landmark Mall of America, Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President of Corporate Services Ron Ricks announced that the airline will begin service with eight daily nonstop flights to Chicago Midway with 21-day advanced purchase fares as low as $69 one-way. To view a complete list of Southwest’s flights from MSP, visit: http://www.southwest.com/?src=PRPRPRNGENR000000080808.

“Southwest Airlines is famous for increasing traffic and decreasing fares when we enter a market, and it already appears that ‘the Southwest Effect’ is alive and well in Minneapolis-St. Paul,” Ricks said. “The people of Minnesota have been asking for Southwest Airlines service for many years, and we can’t wait to introduce them to our legendary Customer Service, as well as our low fares, ontime flights, and no hidden fees.”

In addition to the eight daily nonstop flights to Chicago Midway, Southwest Airlines will offer direct or connecting service to more than 30 destinations, including: Las Vegas, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, and Baltimore/Washington, just to name a few. Southwest Airlines will operate from Gate 7 in the Humphrey Terminal and will have about 35 full-time Employees.

“For over a decade we’ve worked diligently to attract Southwest Airlines to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport,” said Metropolitan Airport Commission Chairman Jack Lanners. “Southwest’s new service beginning March 8, 2009 will provide Minnesotans a low-cost alternative accessing the Southwest Airlines route system. For many years there has been a strong interest in having Southwest Airlines serve our community. Our airport’s low-cost operating structure is one factor that helped make it possible for Southwest to enter the Minnesota market. We look forward to a successful partnership with Southwest Airlines providing new low-cost air service meeting our travel needs.”

To view a blog post on this news, visit: http://www.blogsouthwest.com.

After 37 years of service, Southwest Airlines, the nation’s leading low-fare carrier, continues to stand above other airlines — offering a reliable product with exemplary Customer Service with no hidden fees. Southwest Airlines is the most productive airline in the sky and offers Customers a comfortable traveling experience with all premium leather seats and plenty of legroom. Southwest recently updated its gate areas and improved its boarding procedure to make flying Southwest Airlines even more convenient. Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), the nation’s largest carrier in terms of domestic passengers enplaned, currently serves 64 cities in 32 states. Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,400 flights a day and has more than 34,000 Employees systemwide.

Fare Rules

The $69 fare between Chicago Midway and Minneapolis-St. Paul is available for purchase today through the end of the schedule, currently May 8, 2009. Fares are one-way and do not require an overnight stay. All tickets must be purchased 21-days in advance. When combining fares, all ticketing restrictions apply. Seats are limited. Fares may vary by day of travel and will not be available on some flights that operate during very busy travel times and holiday periods. Fares do not include a federal segment tax of up to $3.60 per takeoff and landing. Fares do not include airport-assessed passenger facility charges (PFC) of up to $4.50 one-way and U.S. government- imposed September 11th Security Fees of $2.50 one-way. Fares are subject to change until ticketed. Tickets are nonrefundable but, if unused, may be applied toward the purchase of future travel on Southwest Airlines. Fares are valid on Southwest-operated published, scheduled service only and are not available through the Group Desk.

  • i’m sure southwest will be ready for a fight, hopefully they can go the distance. i think people around here have been anxious for sw to enter the market and will be happy to ride that airline they have been hearing about for so long. hopefully things ARE greener on the other side of the fence and the msp market opens up.

  • bsimon

    Cheap fares to a rinky-dink airport in Chicago won’t make a whit of difference. What needs to happen at MSP is opening more gates in the Lindberg terminal to major carriers. It is time to get some real competition in here.

  • Andy Ferron

    Nice point about brand loyalty. With Northwest’s entire identity disappearing, it won’t be convenient for the flying public to remember that our hometown airline is still around, albeit in pieces.

    The moment the uniforms change, the planes are repainted, the logos disappear and the flight schedules are integrated, all bets are off in terms of customer loyalty, at least as far as I’m concerned. Still feeling bitter about the merger in the first place, I’ll be hoping for any competition to come to town and take a bite out of Delta.