By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
8:20 PM EST, December 16, 2013
Two new West Coast destinations will begin popping up on Southwest Airlines departure boards in Baltimore in June: Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore.
While Southwest only issues its flight plans per month — its June schedule came out Monday — the airline expects to offer the routes through August, until demand drops off after Labor Day, said Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for Southwest, BWI's largest carrier.
The daily round-trip flights out of Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport start June 7.
The flights will serve summertime fliers looking for leisure, but also business fliers going to conventions out west or looking for a straight connection to Southwest's entire East Coast corridor, Hawkins said.
Oakland International Airport (OAK) already is a major Southwest hub, he said. Flights between BWI and OAK have been offered in the past. Oakland can serve as a gateway to San Francisco, Napa Valley and elsewhere in central California.
Portland International Airport (PDX) is a growing West Coast hub where Southwest is looking to expand, Hawkins said. This is the first time the airline is offering flights between BWI and PDX.
Paul Wiedefeld, CEO of BWI, said in a statement that the new transcontinental routes mean more options for business and leisure travelers alike and "offer our West Coast customers excellent access to Maryland and the entire National Capital region."
They also will "help BWI Marshall continue to drive transportation, economic development and tourism," Wiedefeld said.
Hawkins said the flights exemplify the airline's "strategy to do more longhaul" since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 decreased demand for its shorter, regional offerings. Southwest wants to continue to corner the market on nonstop, long-haul domestic flights in the United States, he said.
The new routes, which will operate once round-trip each day, are about "opening up new options and connecting existing dots that were already important to us," Hawkins said
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