CEO: Charlotte Could Still Land Southwest

Southwest Airlines' chief executive said in an interview published Monday that the low-fare airline is still considering Charlotte for a possible expansion.

Responding to a question about where the airline will expand next, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told The Wall Street Journal: "Right now we have half a dozen cities high on the list. There's only one we've said publicly that I will repeat: Charlotte."

An entry by Southwest into Charlotte would almost certainly result in lower airfares. Because it is a US Airways hub with little low-fare competition, Charlotte's airport has the third-highest fares of any major U.S. airport, according to federal data.

But airline spokeswoman Pam Berg cautioned against assumptions about Kelly's shout-out. She said the CEO named the city because Southwest's interest in Charlotte is already public, while the names of other candidate cities are not.

Asked whether Southwest was hinting at an imminent arrival, she said, "I'd say you can take it as a hint that you're still on the list."

Charlotte has been on the list for a while. But Southwest, the nation's seventh-largest airline, has landed instead in cities including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver and Fort Myers, Fla.

In the newspaper interview, Kelly continued: "Obviously Charlotte isn't rising to the top of the list yet. It was beat by Fort Myers and Denver (where service begins Jan. 3). I don't know whether we'll have another new city next year."

Charlotte Observer

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