Southwest Closes in on New York City's LaGuardia Airport

Posted November 19, 2008 by Zak Patten

Newyorkcitybroadwaylights_2 Last week, I reported on how Southwest is teaming up with a Mexican airline to offer south-of-the-border flights. As if we needed more proof that the LUV airline is making a power play with the economy down, financially secure Southwest is set to buy ATA and muscle into the Big Apple's LaGuardia airport. In these tough times, Southwest is particularly appealing to those of us with less cash to spend on expensive flights. It's like travelers are hearing an old blues song being turned on its head: "Somebody knows you when you're down and out," and that somebody is Southwest Airlines.

Obscure musical references aside, picking up the now-defunct ATA for its landing and takeoff slots, is a really big deal. According to the AP, "Southwest would get 14 slots, enough to operate seven takeoffs and seven landings per day at LaGuardia." What will be interesting is where Southwest actually flies from New York. USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh predicts Chicago (Midway) and Florida to be high on the list of potential destinations.

Why hasn't Southwest, with its household-name status, gone Broadway in the past? Well, for one thing, it's tough to find a slot at New York airports. The Wall Street Journal cites Department of Transportation statistics that link 75 percent of all the country's delayed flights to New York Airports. Southwest counts on efficiency and probably doesn't want to be associated with tardiness, sort of like that friend of yours who always shows up to your dinner parties two hours late—but is really sorry about it!

Currently, Southwest is flying out of MacArthur Airport on Long Island, which is some 50 miles from the bright lights of the City That Never Sleeps. This is the equivalent of leaving the quiet confines of suburbia and seeking your fortune in the big town. And what better place to do that than New York?

Time will tell if this was a stroke of genius or a blunder by Southwest. The potential for lots of customers is certainly there, but so is the possibility of getting bogged down by delays. And while there's no shortage of business travelers in New York, until that Wall Street bailout kicks in, "down and out" stockbrokers may be stretching it to even pick up a $49 Southwest fare out of town.

(Photo: NYC & Company)

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