Airline Officials Examine the "Southwest Effect"

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WEST BAY - When Southwest Airlines opened for business in Bay County, locals envisioned being able to affordable travel all over the country.

Now Southwest's airfares are as high as every other airline.

A recent USA Today article says, in some cases, Southwest has the highest fares.

If you haven't heard of the "Southwest Effect" you're not alone, but officials at Northwest Florida Beaches International say they are very familiar with it.

"The Southwest Effect is something that happens at an airport when Southwest first enters the market," said Parker McClellan, Northwest Florida Beaches International Executive Director.

"The Southwest Effect is when we [Southwest] come into a market. It really stimulates traffic substantially. It helps to keep the fares low," said Michelle Agnew, Southwest Airlines Spokesperson.

Bay County officials aggressively recruited Southwest to add the new NWF Beaches International to it's destinations when the airport opened 4 years.

Local travelers initially enjoyed the results of the Southwest Effect.

Agnew said, "It's been statistically proven that fares tend to lower once Southwest enters a market."

Delta also decreased it's fare, just to compete, but those lower fares seemed to come to an end about 2 years ago.

A recent USA Today article even found Southwest had the highest fares for the 10 routes it examined, between 17 and 145% higher than its competitors.

Southwest officials disagree. "We are stimulating traffic and keep those fares low," Agnew said. She also says airfares should only be part of a customer's consideration. She goes on to say, "Bags fly free that is a huge savings for customers and no change fees."

Beach International Airport officials are excited to announce a new non-stop to Dallas route with Southwest, starting next year.