Southwest Prepares To Start Service at O’Hare International

Southwest Airlines will start its much-anticipated service out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Sunday, February 14.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Southwest will operate 16 flights per day to Dallas – its home base – as well as Baltimore, Denver, Phoenix and Nashville.

The airline will still use Midway as its primary Chicago hub, but its foray into the city’s, and one of the country’s, biggest airports, was long overdue.

And it’s a nice boost for O’Hare, where traffic has plummeted to less than half of 2019 levels as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate air travel.

“We want to bring the ‘Southwest effect’ to O’Hare,” said Dave Harvey, vice president of Southwest Business.

According to the paper, Southwest has been credited with spurring a drop in fares whenever it enters a market, and early data suggest fares are down on the handful of routes where Southwest will compete with O’Hare’s biggest carriers. But that effect may be more muted than usual — O’Hare already has a handful of budget carriers, and Southwest isn’t new to the city since it has been a mainstay at Midway.

“Anytime a carrier adds service, you get a range of flight schedules that might be available for choosing, more inventory and more price competition,” said Dave Hilfman, the interim executive director for the Global Business Travel Association. “That’s what Southwest’s entrance provides, more options and more choices .”

In fact, for the first week of April, the Tribune found that Southwest’s listed fare to Dallas was $49 compared with $43 at American Airlines and $85 at United Airlines out of O’Hare.

Southwest also doesn’t charge some common fees, like checked bag fees and flight change fees, though United, American and Delta Air Lines have also eliminated change fees on flights departing the U.S. since the pandemic began.

Southwest Prepares To Start Service at O’Hare International

Hongxia Sun