Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier at Tampa International Airport, will cut local flights 15 percent for the slow fall travel season
Starting Aug. 15, the airline will drop 11 daily departures from its peak summer schedule of 74 at the airport. That will include Southwest's only nonstops to Milwaukee and Washington Dulles International in northern Virginia.
Nationwide, Southwest will fly 58 fewer flights, or 3.4 percent less, than during the summer months. The number is comparable to its schedule for fall 2009.
"The banner headline about this new schedule would be 'seasonality' — we're using our flight schedule optimizer more and more … to respond to normal seasonal shifts in traffic," wrote Bill Owen, Southwest's lead schedule planner, on the airline's blog.
Southwest will trim one departure a day to 11 markets from Tampa International. For most travelers, that means just one less choice of flights to places such as Baltimore, Chicago or Philadelphia. But the low-fare airline has only one non-stop each day to Milwaukee and Washington Dulles. The Milwaukee route will likely return when Southwest's winter schedule kicks in Oct. 31, said spokeswoman Ashley Rogers .
Washington Dulles won't come back soon. More passengers from northern Virginia want to fly to the West and Midwest instead of Florida, says Rogers.
Even after Southwest discontinues the flights, local travelers will have other nonstop choices to the Washington, D.C., area through Dulles (United), Baltimore-Washington International (Southwest and AirTran) and Reagan Washington National (US Airways).
Southwest flies 31 percent of passengers at Tampa International Airport, the most of any airline.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.