Southwest to end Phila.-Calif. runs

It will make other temporary changes, but its CEO said he wanted more growth at Philadelphia International.

Posted: June 28, 2007

Southwest Airlines Co. will stop flying nonstop between Philadelphia and California this fall and tweak its schedule elsewhere to boost profit at a time when fuel costs are rising and the economy is slowing, chief executive officer Gary C. Kelly said yesterday.

But the airline expects many of the schedule changes to be temporary - and Kelly said it wanted to resume growth at Philadelphia International Airport when it began leasing four more gates at Terminal E later this year.

Southwest now has two round-trip flights a day between Philadelphia and Los Angeles and one a day between Philadelphia and Oakland. Those will be out of the schedule by October, as will nonstop service between Baltimore and the two cities.

Also in the fall, Southwest will add one flight between Philadelphia and Nashville, giving it three daily round-trips, and will trim service between Philadelphia and Providence, R.I., from six to five daily round-trips.

Southwest, with about 11 percent of the passengers at Philadelphia International, has 65 daily flights now and only eight gates in Terminals D and E.

"Our operations are a little stressed right now," Kelly said. "Once we have the new facilities, we want to resume our growth in Philadelphia." He spoke in a conference call from New York, where he briefed Wall Street analysts on Southwest's plans.

Nationwide, the carrier will cut 39 round-trips and add 45.

Kelly said the changes were needed to restore profit growth, which he said would be about 6 percent this year, down from a previous forecast of 8 percent. Southwest has made a profit for 34 consecutive years.

The airline, based in Dallas, plans to add just 19 737 jets to its fleet this year, down from a previous goal of 34, he said.

Kelly said the slower growth would give Southwest time to evaluate several business initiatives scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter, including long-awaited plans to adopt a new method of boarding and seating passengers. Some travelers dislike Southwest's policy of unreserved seats, with passengers grabbing the first seats they find.

Earlier this month, Southwest said it planned to sell seats on ATA Airlines flights from the East Coast to the Caribbean by 2009 and later to Europe. Philadelphia could be a connection point for some of that service, Kelly said. The two airlines have a code-sharing agreement.


Contact staff writer Tom Belden at 215-854-2454 or tbelden@phillynews.com.

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