PORTLAND, Maine — Southwest Airlines will not expand the number of daily flights AirTran currently offers between Portland and Baltimore when it takes over the service in April, but it will increase service by flying larger planes.
Southwest, the country’s largest domestic airline, announced last week that come spring it would take over service at Portland International Jetport from AirTran, which it acquired in May 2011. AirTran will cease its service in Portland on April 13, 2013, with Southwest picking up the service the next day.
On Monday, Southwest announced the official flight schedule it would use on April 14, which turned out to be unchanged from the three daily round-trip flights AirTran currently offers between Portland and Baltimore.
Southwest will offer nonstop flights from Portland to Baltimore-Washington International Airport on weekdays at 6:05 and 11:55 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.; on Saturdays at 6:05 a.m. and 2 p.m.; and on Sundays at 11:55 a.m. and 5:20 p.m. The airline announced flights would cost as little as $79 one way.
While the number of flights were not expanded, the fact Southwest flies larger planes will in effect expand the service, according to Scott Carr, the jetport’s deputy director.
Southwest flies 143-seat Boeing 737s, while AirTran flies 117-seat Boeing 717s, which represents 156 additional seats each day in the market over what AirTran currently offers, Carr told the Bangor Daily News.
The available connections from Baltimore also will expand upon Southwest’s arrival. Southwest offers connections from Baltimore to 60 cities, a 30 percent increase from the number AirTran has available from Baltimore, Carr said.
Paul Bradbury, the jetport’s director, expressed hope last week that Southwest would offer more daily flights than AirTran currently does. While that didn’t happen, Carr said the jetport would work with the airline to explore future opportunities for expansion.
“This is the initial conversion schedule,” Carr said. “We will continue to work with Southwest as we do with all airlines to offer additional, nonstop cities in the future.”
Southwest will evaluate its performance in the Portland market, the results of which will govern any future decisions regarding the number of daily flights, said Chris Mainz, a spokesman for Southwest. “It’s really too early to say what service will look like down the road.”
In the meantime, Carr said the jetport is just happy to have been selected by Southwest as one of the AirTran airports where it decided to maintain service.
Of the 69 cities AirTran served before Southwest acquired it, 16 cities were dropped and will lose the previously offered service.
“Southwest Airlines is the largest domestic airline in the United States, so to be put on their route map is an important strategic [milestone] of our air service development strategy,” Carr said.
Mainz said Southwest is not considering offering service at Bangor International Airport at this time.