Southwest Airlines plans to add flights to the 16 cities it already serves from Philadelphia but may not start any new routes from here this year, the carrier's chief executive officer says.
Southwest began leasing two additional gates at Philadelphia International Airport this month, giving it the ability to build its flight schedule beyond the 58 daily departures it has now, vice chairman and CEO Gary C. Kelly said in an interview Friday in Baltimore.
Southwest's ability to increase Philadelphia service has been affected by its rapid growth elsewhere. It started new service from Pittsburgh and Fort Myers, Fla., last year and from Denver on Jan. 3. It has been using new jets it has bought to serve those cities.
"I hope we can pick up the pace next year" in Philadelphia, he said. "I'm afraid to promise any new destinations this year."
Kelly was in Baltimore to meet on Thursday with more than 1,000 Southwest employees, one of six gatherings for workers the company is holding around the country.
Southwest has eight gates at Philadelphia airport now, four in Terminal D and four in Terminal E. Southwest officials said late last year that they also hoped to negotiate leases with the airport for four more gates in Terminal E now used by Delta Air Lines. That would give Southwest 12 gates and thus the ability to operate more than 100 daily flights.
Kelly added that Southwest might compromise in its campaign to repeal the Wright Amendment, a federal rule that prohibits it from flying anywhere from Dallas Love Field, where the airline is based, except to eight nearby states.
The rule was adopted by Congress in the late 1970s to help the then-fledgling Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the home of rival American Airlines. Members of the Texas congressional delegation are divided on repealing the amendment.
Kelly said Southwest was willing to see the rule phased out over time, allowing it to gradually add flights from Dallas to cities - including Philadelphia - it cannot serve now.
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Southwest Airlines plans to add flights to the 16 cities it already serves from Philadelphia but may not start any new routes from there this year.
After three decades of shunning Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Southwest Airlines plans to begin serving the airport starting next month.
By next spring, Southwest expects to lease a dozen gates at the airport, meaning it could double the schedule of 53 flights a day it has now.
The expansion will give Southwest a total of eight gates in two terminals and enable it to expand its flight schedule.