SAN DIEGO — Southwest Airlines will reinforce its position as Lindbergh Field's dominant air carrier by initiating six daily round-trip flights this summer between San Diego and Sacramento.
The six daily flights to Sacramento will increase Southwest's daily departures from Lindbergh Field to 53, the most of any carrier, said Vice President John G. Denison at a press conference here Tuesday. Sacramento will become the 34th city served by the Dallas-based airline.
Southwest will use low fares to attract San Diego-based business travelers and politicians who regularly travel to Sacramento, Denison said. The airline plans to offer unrestricted, one-way $59 fares when it begins service between the two cities July 24, Denison said.
That fare strategy will be welcomed by frequent fliers in San Diego who long have grumbled about a lack of low-priced flights between their home town and the state capital.
Although other airlines--including USAir, Delta, America West and United--fly between San Diego and Sacramento, most have been charging up to $387 for a one-way, unrestricted coach ticket, according to figures provided by a local travel agent. USAir and United, however, recently lowered their one-way, unrestricted fares to $99.
Denison said that Southwest's customers will pay, at most, $59 for a one-way ticket. The "only restriction will be the number of seats that we have on an airplane," Denison said. Southwest also intends to offer lower-cost tickets to passengers who make reservations well in advance.
Southwest, which has gradually expanded its service in San Diego, carried 208,202 passengers into and out of San Diego during March, according to Roland C. Lyson, Southwest's station manager at Lindbergh Field.
In contrast, USAir, which is phasing out many of its flights in California as it focuses on its routes in the East, carried 118,000 passengers to and from San Diego during March, Lyson said. American carried 116,000 passengers during the month, and America West carried 104,793.
Denison described Southwest as the logical heir to Pacific Southwest Airlines, the San Diego-based airline that USAir acquired in 1987. Before being acquired by USAir, PSA used its "low-cost, high frequency" philosophy to dominate the hotly competitive "California Corridor."
Southwest and other airlines are positioning themselves to take advantage of USAir's previously announced plan to dramatically cut the number of flights offered within California. During May, USAir will reduce daily departures inside California by 97 flights to 192. San Diego departures will be reduced by 11 to 21.
Although Southwest has grown relatively fast in San Diego, the airline could be hampered by a relative lack of departure gates and ticket counters, Denison said. However, Southwest is negotiating with airport officials to increase the size of its terminal operations, he said.