CHICAGO (CBS) — A bombshell in the Chicago airline community: After 35 years operating only out of Midway airport, Southwest Airlines will add flights into and out of O’Hare next year.
While the O’Hare destinations are still unclear, what is clear: it’s a win for Chicago travelers and a big cause for concern for other Chicago-based airlines.
CBS 2’s Chris Tye explains.
“You know when you’re thinking about the impact of the pandemic on the aviation business, it creates opportunities for people who want to roll the dice,” said CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. ”
And Southwest is rolling those dice 32 miles north. Southwest will continue to fly to 64 airports from Midway. But starting in the first half of next year, the airline exclusive to the South Side will add routes out of O’Hare. Exact destinations are still unclear.
The losers, according to Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News: competing airlines, who in addition to fighting pandemic declines, will have to compete with an industry leader known for low prices.
“Consumers are the winners, because anytime Southwest comes into a market, airfares drop,” Greenberg said.
Other winners: airline workers.
“This was an airline that told its employees last week to prepare for pay cuts in lieu of furloughs. No one is out of the woods, but this is in the short term, good news,” he said.
The city’s aviation department said Southwest will operate from common use gates and no existing airlines are giving up access to gates.
“This had to be in the works for at least 18 months to two years waiting for the right time,” Greenberg said. “And nobody could’ve expected that this would be the right time, but all things considered, this perfect storm has created the opportunity.”
An opportunity that Southwest said will give those on the North Side easier access to the airline. Southwest said it will begin by serving cities already serviced out of Midway’s new routes. But Greenberg said with so many airlines cutting routes to medium and small cities, that could be an opportunity for Southwest down the road.