Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Southwest flight reductions shouldn’t hit Manchester

While Southwest Airlines last week announced that it would be cutting 4 percent of its flights in 2009, the move is not expected to affect Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, say airport officials.

“Manchester does experience some seasonal fluctuations with Southwest flights, but we will probably not be impacted by the 4 percent across-the-board reductions,” said Brian O’Neill, the airport’s deputy director. “We’re relatively small as compared to Southwest’s whole operation. Some airports have hundreds of flights. We don’t have that excess capacity.”

In filings released by Southwest on Jan. 22, Gary C. Kelly, the company’s chief executive, said that while the firm plans to “reduce our available seat miles by approximately 4 percent versus 2008, we remain well-positioned to respond quickly to favorable market opportunities, such as our launch into Minneapolis-St. Paul beginning March 2009 and our bid to acquire rights to 14 slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport.”

O’Neill said that Southwest typically reduces its flight schedule at Manchester-Boston by a few flights in the winter, adding them back in the summer, a common practice among other airlines as well.

For now, he doesn’t foresee any major changes in Southwest’s schedule at the airport, which typically has 26 to 29 flights out of Manchester.

“Southwest represents 60 percent of our business,” said O’Neill, “but I don’t feel we’ll be negatively impacted.”