Discounter Southwest Airlines, the second largest carrier in terms of passenger enplanements at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport has announced two daily non-stops to Kansas City International Airport beginning on Valentine's Day. The new service is in addition to Southwest's current non-stop routes from MSP to Chicago- Midway, St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Fort Myers and Orlando.
The initial flight schedule is as follows:
- southbound, depart MSP 7:00 a.m. and 5:35 p.m.; arrive MCI 8:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., respectively
- northbound, depart MCI 7:15 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.; arrive MSP 8:55 a.m. and 6:40 p.m., respectively
- there are numerous connecting flights available throughout the day
Clearly, Southwest is looking to the business traveler to take advantage of the opportunity to make a same-day round-trip in either direction. Long reliant on leisure travelers to fill its aircraft, the Dallas-based airline is tweaking its schedules in an effort to attract higher airfares. Business travelers typically book closer to the departure day, when fares are higher.
Delta Air Lines will be Southwest's head-to-head competitor on the popular business and leisure route. Northwest Airlines was a fierce competitor with other carriers that tried to enter the MSP/MCI market, knocking both Vanguard Airlines and Frontier Airlines out of the market. Despite Delta's six daily round-trips from the more popular Terminal 1/Lindbergh, Southwest is a much more formidable force to reckon with. And, with just two round-trips initially, both airlines will probably be successful. Southwest's flies various sizes of the Boeing 737, while Delta operates four regional jet round-trips, plus larger A320 and MD-90 equipment at busier times of the day.
Southwest makes its MSP home at Terminal 2/Humphrey, taking advantage of the much smaller facility to turn its aircraft quickly. Generally, upon arrival at the gate, the next outbound flight is on its way in 20-30 minutes, unlike larger carriers like Delta, United and American, which may have its aircraft sit at the gate for 45 minutes or even an hour between flights.
There are several other major differences between the two airlines, including the fact that Delta pre-assigns seats where Southwest does not; but Southwest currently doesn't charge for checked baggage, and Delta does. Southwest does have a program where travelers can pay in advance for priority boarding, or at the gate if early boarding space remains. But, that just allows for a choice of seats, and it's first-come, first-served upon boarding. Perhaps most important to the frequent business traveler is Delta's first-class seating on all flights, where Southwest operates in all-economy configuration.