Southwest Airlines Will No Longer Fly to These 4 Airports

Financial losses have forced the airline to embark on a “network optimization” effort.

A Southwest Airlines airplane parked at an airport gate

Southwest Airlines is cutting capacity in an effort to boost its balance sheet.

Photo by R.D. Smith/Unsplash

When Southwest Airlines reported larger than expected financial losses in its most recent quarterly earnings call on April 25, the airline also announced that it will be cutting service to four airports as of August 4, 2024. Additionally, Southwest is planning to reduce capacity at two other major destinations. The goal of these cuts is to “improve unit revenue performance and operating margin,” according to the earnings call. The airline has not ruled out further cuts to its network, adding to the uncertainty plaguing the airline industry in recent months.

Which airports is Southwest Airlines cutting from its network?

On August 4, “as peak summer 2024 travel ends,” Southwest says it will eliminate flight service to the following four airports and will no longer take reservations for travel after that date:

  • Bellingham International Airport (BLI) in Washington
  • Cozumel International Airport (CZM) in Quintana Roo, Mexico
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas
  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) in New York

In addition, Southwest says it will “significantly restructure other markets,” beginning by “implementing capacity reductions” at the following airports:

  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Illinois
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Georgia

Southwest did not specify which routes the capacity reductions would affect and the airline has not ruled out additional route eliminations or flight reductions, with CEO Bob Jordan saying that “network actions will continue” as Southwest tries to work its way back to profitability.

Why is Southwest cutting back?

Southwest’s recent profit loss is the primary driver for the flight cuts. The route reduction is being undertaken with the goal of “network optimization,” according to the carrier.

“To improve our financial performance,” the airline said in its recent earnings call, “we have intensified our network optimization efforts to address underperforming markets. Consequently, we have made the difficult decision to close our operations” at the four airports and to reduce capacity in two others.

Syracuse Airport disputes the destination’s underperformance, saying in a statement that Southwest told the hub the “market was performing as expected for a new city” after two and a half years operating there, implying there was another issue at hand, including possibly the lack of aircraft due to delivery issues at Boeing.

Indeed, one has to wonder if the issues at Boeing are partially to blame for the network cuts. Southwest acknowledged the impact of Boeing’s production and delivery problems, saying on the call that “further aircraft delivery delays present significant challenges . . . we are reacting and replanning quickly to mitigate the operational and financial impacts while maintaining dependable and reliable flight schedules.”

But Jordan said that while Boeing’s plane delivery issues are “painful” for the airline, aircraft availability is not the main cause for the route cuts. “The network actions really have nothing to do with the Boeing delays, [and] we’re taking action regardless,” he stated during a post-earnings call interview on CNBC.

What do these cuts mean for travelers?

For those travelers who have existing reservations to fly to any of the eliminated destinations after the August 4 deadline, Southwest said it will be “reaching out to all who are affected with their specific options” to rebook travel.

People traveling to and from the smaller airports being removed from Southwest’s network, like Bellingham and Syracuse, will be most affected by the change, given that there are fewer alternative airline options. Bellingham will continue to be served primarily by Allegiant and Alaska Airlines, according to local reports, relying on connections through Seattle for most destinations. Syracuse Airport will still have service from most major airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue, and United, although some local passengers are being rerouted through Rochester, according to Syracuse Airport said in its statement that it will “remain actively engaged with Southwest Airlines to determine a future date for the airline to relaunch service in Syracuse.”

Given Southwest’s statement that “network actions will continue,” travelers should be prepared for further flight and destination cuts—both for Southwest and other airlines that may be facing financial difficulties. As always, keep your eye on airline news, and have on hand strategies for rebooking canceled flights.

Bill Fink is a freelance travel writer for outlets including AARP, BBC Travel, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Outside, SF Chronicle, and Yahoo Travel. Among many writing awards, Bill won Lowell Thomas Golds for Investigative Journalism and Newspaper Travel, and his stories have been included in The Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing, Travelers’ Tales Best Travel Writing, and The Best American Travel Writing.
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