By Ben Mutzabaugh
Airlines constantly tweak their schedules, trying to find profitable new routes or pulling the plug on ones that have underperformed. Airports and communities court these new services.
There are dozens of changes to airline routes each month. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting:
Southwest adds five non-stop routes, expands in Phoenix
Southwest Airlines is adding five daily non-stop routes to its schedule. The carrier also will beef up its presence in Phoenix by adding more flights on existing routes.
Two new routes come from Southwest’s base at Houston Hobby, with daily non-stop service to Columbus, Ohio, and Louisville. Additionally, Southwest will add daily non-stop service between Denver and Memphis. Southwest will offer one round-trip flight each weekday on all three routes starting Oct. 3.
Two other routes — Oklahoma City-Nashville and Denver-El Paso — get Sunday-only non-stop service starting Oct. 7.
In Phoenix, Southwest will add one additional weekday flight to five of its existing routes.
Alaska Airlines shakes up California routes
Alaska Airlines is ending service on several California routes as it looks to both cut underperforming routes and harmonize its schedule with merger partner Virgin America.
Four routes are from San Francisco, where non-stops to Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Mexico City will end by mid-June. Another San Francisco route — to Cancun — ended this month.
Two routes from Southern California — Los Angeles-Orlando and San Diego-Mexico City — will be discontinued by summer.
The adjustments come as the lucrative California market has become increasingly competitive, especially since Alaska Airlines’ acquisition of Virgin America made it one of the top carriers in the state.
Alaska Airlines said the changes don’t indicate a pullback. Spokeswoman Ann Johnson said Alaska has added 34 new routes from the state since the Virgin America deal closed in December 2016. Of the additions made since then, only four are being discontinued. “That’s a pretty great success rate,” Johnson said.
Other routes that are ending — such as Denver-San Francisco — were launched by Virgin America prior to the merger. Those markets, Johnson said, are being eliminated as part of an effort “to optimize the schedule” as the carriers’ operations are blended together.
Allegiant adds Nashville as part of 13-route expansion
Allegiant Air will make Nashville its newest destination, part of a broader 13-route expansion at the budget carrier.
The company also revealed two new cross-country routes that will add non-stop service between Denver and Asheville, N.C., and between Oakland and Memphis.
Allegiant’s Nashville service starts June 7 when it launches the first of five routes. Flights to Punta Gorda, Fla., will operate year-round and four other Nashville routes (Destin, Fla.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Savannah, Ga.) will be seasonal.
Among the other cities getting new routes are Flint, Mich. (to Fort Lauderdale and Myrtle Beach); Syracuse (to Orlando Sanford); and Eugene, Ore. (to San Diego).
Delta Air Lines is expanding its presence in Chattanooga, Tenn., adding a non-stop route to its hub at New York LaGuardia.
The daily weekday service begins July 9 and will be operated by Delta Connection affiliate Endeavor Air on 76-seat Bombardier CRJ-900 regional jets. Delta already flies from Chattanooga to its hubs in Atlanta and Detroit.
Delta freed the slots for the new Chattanooga route amid broader schedule adjustments at LaGuardia. The carrier is thinning frequencies on some routes to Florida.
It’s also dropping another route altogether — Dayton-LaGuardia non-stops will end March 31 “due to underperformance,” spokesman Morgan Durrant said.
Ethiopian Airlines’ Dreamliners will fly to Chicago
Chicago has become one of the newest dots on Ethiopian Airlines’ global flight map.
The carrier is set to begin flying from O’Hare International Airport on June 10, offering three flights a week to its hub near Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa.
The flight from Chicago is scheduled for 13 hours, 45 minutes and will be the only non-stop service connecting Chicago to Africa. The return Chicago-bound flight stops in Dublin on its way from Addis Ababa. Ethiopian will use Boeing 787-8 “Dreamliners” for the flights.
Ethiopian says Chicago customers will be able to connect via Addis Ababa to more than 55 destinations across Africa.
Hong Kong Airlines launches in San Francisco
Hong Kong Airlines began flying to San Francisco on Sunday, becoming the fourth carrier to offer non-stop flights to Hong Kong from the Bay Area airport.
The carrier is using new 334-seat Airbus A350s for its four weekly flights. Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and United also fly between the cities.
San Francisco becomes the third North American destination for Hong Kong Airlines, founded in 2006. It began service to Vancouver in June 2017 and to Los Angeles in December.
Beyond its new North American routes, Hong Kong Airlines flies from its Hong Kong hub to more than 30 destinations across Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Aeromexico courts auto industry with new Detroit route
Aeromexico will add non-stop service between Detroit and Leon, Mexico, starting April 30.
Aeromexico said the route would link two cities that have complementary industries. Detroit is known as the center of the automobile industry in the U.S.; Aeromexico described Leon as a Mexican industrial center known for “strong automotive, leather and footwear, agroindustry, tourism, and pharmaceutical sectors.”
Aeromexico will fly one daily round-trip flight between the cities on 99-seat Embraer E190s. Leon customers will be able to connect to dozens of Delta destinations via Detroit, a hub for Delta.