Southwest Airlines is Scaling Back

By  | 

PANAMA CITY BEACH-- Southwest Airlines is once again scaling back service to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

When Northwest Florida Beaches International landed Southwest Airlines in May of 2010, locals envisioned cheap flights to destinations all over the U.S.

In exchange for an incentive package, Southwest guaranteed eight daily flights, two each to Orlando, Baltimore, Nashville and Houston, for the first three years.

In 2012, Southwest even added a regular summertime flight between here and St. Louis.

But once they fulfilled the three-year contract, Southwest began making cuts. Airline officials dropped the two Orlando flights.

In September, Southwest will cut back to one daily flight to Baltimore.

Then in November service to Nashville and Houston will be down to one flight a day.

That's three daily Southwest flights, down from the original eight in 2010.

Local airport and tourism officials say the demand just isn't there.
"We become less busy in this community and they become less busy and they're trying to ensure that their model in this community is one of success," said Bay Co. Airport Director Parker McClellan.

"Southwest understands some of the seasonal nature of visitation to panama city beach, and so this is just a routine reduction in service that's based upon demand," said TDC Director Dan Rowe.

Local passengers say the changes will give them few choices. "I think it's inconvenient for a passenger because I personally like direct flights and so when they're taken away it gives you less options for flying and especially when southwest is typically the cheapest," said Southwest flyer Liz McDonnel.

McClellan said the change is actually a good thing. "You know yes there's a change to the downturn and a reduction of seasonal adjustments, but at the end of the day we anticipate that we're going to have more opportunities to travel out of this community," said McClellan.

One of those opportunities involves Southwest adding service to Dallas beginning in 2015.