Southwest Airlines Co. said Tuesday that it will set up shop at New York's LaGuardia Airport in June, the carrier's first entry into the major market.
The move not only helps Southwest push into one of the country's busiest airports, but it also taps into budget-conscious travelers' desire for low-cost fares during the recession.
The Dallas-based company will have eight daily nonstop flights -- five between LaGuardia and Chicago Midway and three between LaGuardia and Baltimore/Washington. A one-way ticket to Baltimore/Washington will run $49, while a Chicago one-way fare will cost $89 if purchased 14 days in advance.
In December, Southwest agreed to pay $7.5 million for assets of ATA Airlines including 14 takeoff and landing slots at LaGuardia after receiving a bankruptcy judge's approval. At the time the purchase was somewhat of a departure for the airline, as it had previously steered clear of service at congested urban airports in favor of secondary airports where crews could service and clean planes and get them back in the air quickly.
The LaGuardia addition will now put Southwest in the company of low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways Corp., which also services the airport but does not provide Chicago or Baltimore/Washington flights from the hub. JetBlue does however offer flights to the cities from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Prior to LaGuardia, Southwest's closest hub for New York-based travelers was Long Island's Islip Airport.
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The carrier, which recently added service to Minneapolis, has said that it is starting flights at Boston's Logan International Airport in the fall. While Southwest is expanding into some major U.S. markets, the airline has also been cutting unprofitable routes and said it will lower capacity 4 percent this year.
Southwest currently serves 65 cities, with more than 3,300 flights a day.