Feb. 11--Southwest Airlines is paying "very close attention" to Memphis, president and chief executive officer Gary Kelly said in an interview with Reuters news service.
Memphis may not have as much upside for Southwest as St. Louis and Nashville did after they lost hubs, Kelly said, but "We're excited about being able to grow there and we'll do as much as we can."
Kelly's comments, reported Monday at Reuters.com, came a week after Memphis didn't make the initial cut for new flights out of Dallas Love Field starting this fall.
However, airline and airport officials pointed out it's a bit early to read too much into that omission.
The low-cost carrier officially launched service at Memphis International Airport last November, two months after Delta Air Lines quit calling its Memphis operation a hub. Delta dropped to 53 flights a day in December from a peak of nearly 240 a day by Delta and the former Northwest Airlines combined at the time of their 2008 merger.
Southwest officials say they've been well-pleased by Memphis' response to two flights a day to Chicago Midway and one apiece to Baltimore/Washington, Houston Hobby, Tampa and Orlando. A second Baltimore/Washington nonstop will be added this summer.
Kelly also mentioned Cleveland, where United Continental Holdings plans to dismantle a hub, as a market with growth potential.
He cited examples of Nashville, where Southwest grew to 80 flights a day after cuts by American Airlines, and St. Louis, where Southwest became the biggest carrier after Trans World Airlines was acquired by American.
"Memphis is a smaller community, it probably has smaller potential than the two examples I provided there, but we're going to pay very close attention to it," Kelly told Reuters.
Copyright 2014 - The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
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