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Southwest Airlines coming to Portland

Julie Jacobson | AP
Julie Jacobson | AP
In this Thursday, March 22, 2012, file photo, a Southwest Airlines flight prepares to land at McCarran International Airport, in Las Vegas. Southwest Airlines eked out a small third-quarter profit in spite of a September slowdown, the company said on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012.
By Whit Richardson, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — Southwest Airlines, the country’s largest domestic airline, announced Thursday morning it would begin offering service at Portland International Jetport next April.

Paul Bradbury, the jetport’s director, told the Bangor Daily News that the arrival of Dallas-based Southwest is a bit of a coup for the jetport and a testament to “the vitality of our passenger market.”

“They are the largest domestic carrier, so they have a very large network and a wonderful following, people want to seek them out,” Bradbury said. “So if you don’t have them at your airport, that’s a hole in terms of the service you provide. This announcement fills that hole.”

Bradbury said Southwest’s arrival will offer passengers another convenient option and “will reduce leakage to Logan.”

Southwest’s arrival is a result of its May 2011 acquisition of Orlando-based AirTran Airways, which currently offers three daily flights from Portland to Baltimore. Since the merger, Southwest has been integrating the two airline systems.

On April 13, 2013, AirTran will cease its service in Portland, with Southwest picking up the service the next day.

However, Bradbury said there’s a good chance Southwest will not only replace the three AirTran flights, but expand its service in Portland.

That’s more than a hope, Bradbury said. Based on Southwest’s past integration activities, Bradbury said Southwest likes to enter a market with a “minimum number of flights to give them a market advantage” and to justify the cost of operating in a market.

He’s not sure what that “minimum number” may be in Portland, but he’s fairly confident it would be more than three.

Southwest will release complete details about its flight schedule for Portland on Monday.

Along with Portland, Southwest said it also would be swapping out the AirTran service next spring at airports in Charlotte, N.C.; Flint, Mich.; and Rochester, N.Y.

AirTran began offering service in Portland in 2007, 13 months after JetBlue began operating at the jetport, Bradbury said.

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