Southwest Airlines is adding 12 daily flights out of Denver, including new service to Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; and Nashville, Tenn.
The carrier started flying out of Denver International Airport in January and operates 20 daily departures here. Southwest Airlines chief executive Gary Kelly said he expects to grow more in Denver.
Kelly said he does not know how big a market Denver will be.
"We'd be happy for it to be 200 flights a day or more, but I think that's a long way off," he said.
Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. executive vice president Tom Clark said he expects Southwest to have 60 daily departures within 1 1/2 to two years.
Starting July 17, Southwest will begin flying from Denver to Houston's Hobby Airport, with one daily flight, and will add one additional flight each on routes from Denver to Baltimore/Washington, Chicago Midway and Phoenix.
As of Aug. 4, Southwest will begin from Denver four daily flights to Kansas City, one to Orlando and one to Nashville. It also will add one more flight each to Las Vegas and Houston Hobby.
Denver is vying with Philadelphia for Southwest's fastest city startup, Kelly said, although Denver is not yet profitable for the airline.
"We've got a lot of upfront expenditures," he said.
The airline has about 68 employees in Denver and doesn't expect to need more for the new flights.
Southwest's introductory fares start at $158 round trip to Houston, $118 round trip to Kansas City, $198 round trip to Orlando and $178 round trip to Nashville. The fares come with restrictions and additional taxes and fees.
Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas acknowledged, "It's never good when you have more capacity in a market." He said Frontier is studying whether to match fares on the Southwest routes.
"The squeeze is on there," said Calyon Securities analyst Ray Neidl. "With United putting back some capacity on their side and Southwest on the other side, it's going to be really tough on Frontier." Frontier Airlines shares fell 2 cents Monday, closing at $5.96.
Southwest has requested a fourth gate on DIA's C concourse effective Aug. 1. In the future, "the odds are that we're going to need more than four gates," Kelly said. He has had conversations with DIA about expanding the C concourse, "but I think we're a long way away from that." Southwest applied for federal environmental-compliance approval to expand to up to 60 daily departures from Denver, which is needed for this expansion.
"We don't anticipate any problems," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said, but the expansion has not yet been approved.
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