by Brendan M. Lynch | April 01, 2005

A Southwest Airlines plane

Up and away:
Southwest expands.

Good news for travelers: Some low-cost carriers are busy expanding service around the country, and in several cities heated competition is driving down fares. n 
    In just the last month, AirTran, JetBlue, Song, Southwest Airlines and USA 3000 all announced new routes. While the news spelled trouble for competing legacy carriers, air travelers can look forward to more choices and lower prices.
    For example: Fares on Southwest, which will begin service May 4 out of Pittsburgh International Airport, once the primary hub of US Airways, are as cheap as $29 one way to Chicago’s Midway or to Philadelphia.
    Also as of May 4, Orlando-based AirTran will commence flights from Charlotte, N.C., (another US Airways hub) to HartsfieldJackson Atlanta International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Airport and Boston Logan.
    “For a number of years, Charlotte has been plagued by the highest fares in the country. That changes on May 4,” stated Robert Fornaro, president/COO of AirTran.
    The addition of Southwest to Pittsburgh is a significant boost to that city’s fortunes, according to Joe McGrath, president and CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It adds legitimacy to our product,” said McGrath. “We’ve got a wonderful airport, and now we have the most profitable airline in the United States.”
    In Charlotte, Bonnie Wallsh, CMP, chief solutions officer with Bonnie Wallsh Associates LLC, said of AirTran’s expansion, “We are absolutely thrilled. US Airways has been 91 percent of the airlift in Charlotte, which means I’d drive to neighboring cities to take flights out, because of how expensive it has been to fly from Charlotte.”