Southwest Airlines announced Thursday it intends to launch year-round service later this year to two new destinations: Miami International Airport and Palm Springs International Airport.
The announcement comes as U.S. airlines have slashed fall schedules following a surge in COVID-19 cases and weakened travel demand. Business travel has been at a virtual standstill since March, forcing airlines to woo skittish leisure travelers.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly shared news of the two new destinations in a video message to the airline’s employees, though route details have not yet been announced and are subject to government approvals.
“Adding these specific airports to our route map will bring us access to additional revenue at a critical time,” Kelly said in the video.
Southwest currently serves San Diego and several airports in the Los Angeles area in southern California, and Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in southeast Florida.
The airline’s last U.S. expansion was to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, announced in late February and beginning in mid-December.
In July, Kelly said an “unexpected” jump in coronavirus cases resulted in a fall off in business that forced Southwest to adjust its flight schedules for August and September, and other carriers have made similar cutbacks.
“We’ve seen a dramatic impact to our trends, as far as traffic, revenue and bookings,” he said on the airline’s earnings conference call in July.
The financial impact: the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” in revenue for the third quarter, which runs from July through September.
“We knew this would be a long, saw-toothed slog with a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and its proving to be so,” Kelly said at the time. ”Our country and the world needs to beat this virus. Until then, we’re going to have to be resilient. We’re going to have to persevere and we’re going to have to manage.”
In Kelly’s announcement of Southwest’s two new destinations, he told employees that they would provide new, relevant options as travelers are gradually “rediscovering leisure travel across the country as their own situations allow.”
S: USA TODAY