Southwest Airlines:domestic changes, continued international expansion, as overall 2017 growth slows

Southwest Airlines plans lower system capacity growth in 2017. The company joins other US airlines working feverishly to return to positive unit revenue as oil prices and labour costs are forecast to rise for most of the country’s airlines.

Even as Southwest’s capacity increases are projected to fall year-on-year in 2017 the airline is broadening its international reach with the debut of new flights from Fort Lauderdale, and is making moves in its domestic network.

This includes its decision to launch service from Cincinnati, a market that has attracted significant low cost service during the past two to three years as its hub status for Delta has diminished. Southwest’s service entry at Cincinnati comes at the cost of flights from Akron and Dayton, which is not surprising, given Cincinnati’s potential to garner higher revenue.

Although Southwest cited some positive trends at the end of 2016, it struck a cautious tone about the operating environment in the US, noting that while yields were improving, the revenue environment remains challenging. US airlines, including Southwest, are being closely watched after declaring they will return to positive unit revenue in 1H2017.

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