Southwest at PHL: No growth for now

An earlier post here today on American and Southwest's first-quarter earnings didn't include some information -- not necessarily good news, either -- about Southwest's plans for PHL. The airline has invigorated competition since it came to Philly almost five years, saving travelers lots of money on many routes and helping spur other carriers to provide better service. Southwest had rapid growth after it first arrived, peaking at about 65 daily flights, but the recession has  stopped that rise. Southwest has a little less frequency on some routes than it did at its peak last year, but has added flights to Denver, a new destination.

Southwest in recent months has started new service at Minneapolis/St. Paul, and plans later this year to start at Boston Logan and New York LaGuardia. But airline CEO Gary Kelly, in answering a question I posed during the quarterly analysts' conference call,, said there are no immediate plans to offer PHL-MSP or PHL-BOS service. We're not unique -- the airline is doing the same almost everywhere.

That's not good news for those who need to get to Boston. US Airways' roundtrip fares for nonstops for a ticket bought a week or less in advance hover around $700 -- because there's no competiton. Fares to Manchester, N.H., 47 miles northwest of Boston, where US Airways and Southwest compete, are less than $200 and less than $300 for a full fare, refundable ticket. We all know what will happen to PHL-BOS when Southwest starts growing again.