Southwest is officially moving in on Northwest's home turf—Minneapolis—a decision that could drive down fares at this major Midwestern hub. On November 6, Southwest announced that beginning March 8 the airline will launch eight daily nonstop flights from Minneapolis to Chicago Midway. Tickets will start at $69 each way when booked 21 or more days in advance.
Chicago is only the beginning, however. In a press release, the airline said that from Minneapolis it "will offer direct or connecting service to more than 30 destinations, including: Las Vegas, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, and Baltimore/Washington just to name a few." According to Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare, Southwest actually published new fares for service between Minneapolis and 56 cities for travel beginning March 8.
All in all, this substantial move is likely to be a big win for consumers. In the past when Southwest has moved into a new market, we've seen the "Southwest effect," competition from the low-cost carrier has forced other airlines to lower their prices. Seaney is predicting the same for Minneapolis: "We are likely to be in for some serious fireworks on prices out of Minneapolis in the coming days for spring travel … The legacy airlines will quickly have to restructure their airfares, by offering one-way fares instead of the two-night minimum stay round-trip fares they currently file—likely matching Southwest's new price points." However, Northwest is not likely to roll over easily, says Seaney. "Northwest in the past has hit upstart hub competition with slashed prices as well as putting on new flights with larger single aisle aircraft like the Boeing 757—they have already signaled they are ready for the battle."
We'll be sure to keep you posted on any important new developments or fare wars coming out of Minneapolis. In the meantime, tell us what you think of Southwest's move, especially if you live in the Minneapolis area or are a regular Northwest flyer. Post your comments below.