(without driving to Jacksonville or Charleston)
Southwest to start service in March to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport
By Lisa Allen
For those who have flown Southwest, it’s difficult not to gush. It rates as among the highest regarded airlines in the United States. We’ll soon be able to gush locally when it adds Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport to its destinations on March 11.
Now, residents, business travelers and visitors get the best of all worlds: An adored airline flying out of one of the most hospitable airports that is right around the corner.
“Southwest’s name recognition is incredible,” said Lori Lynah, director of marketing and air service development for the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. “We’re excited to welcome the throngs of Southwest loyalists. We know there are a lot of travelers who will only fly Southwest.”
Until now, the closest Southwest flights were out of Jacksonville or Charleston. Yes, people made that sometimes hours-long drive just to fly Southwest.
“We know about the people who have been making the drive,” Lynah said. “We’ve been working toward this for years. We think it’s going to be huge for the airport and the region. We know we have a story to tell here at the airport. We have a lot of flights and airlines for a smaller airport. We’re big, but we’re small. The people who have been working here, they’ve been here for a long time. We all help each other out. This is Southern hospitality.”
(In fact, many travelers will use only Savannah’s airport because it’s easy to get to, easy to park, easy to navigate and easy to quickly claim checked bags. And it’s just so darned charming!)
Southwest will run six daily flights: two to Baltimore/Washington and one each to Nashville, Houston-Hobby, Chicago-Midway and Dallas-Love Field. From there, the world is your oyster.
According to Southwest, the initial destinations from Savannah were selected to offer customers nonstop access to five of the airline’s largest markets where leisure and business travelers can travel to those cities or make one-stop connections to over 40 other Southwest destinations.
“We’ve had service to all of these locations, but the more service you have to any market, the more competition you get, which helps fares,” Lynah said. More win-wins.
Lynah isn’t worried that Southwest will eat into existing airlines’ volume in Savannah.
“Southwest comes into a market with the assumption of stimulating the market, not taking from its competitors. That’s true of any airline,” she said. “It’s a good sign. We are very honored that they feel confident in us.”
Not only will the airline delight its passengers, it will create jobs, such as ticket counter staff, operations and baggage handlers. “That’s going to be a whole new group of folks at the airport,” Lynah said.
Started as an intrastate airline in Texas 50 years ago, Southwest continues to do things its way.
It allows two free checked bags per passenger and doesn’t charge change fees for passengers who want to change their flights up to 10 minutes before their flight. You read that right. 10 MINUTES. Travelers pay the difference if the new flight is more expensive and get the difference back as a credit for future travel or a refund for refundable tickets, if it’s cheaper.
Southwest boards by three groups, allowing passengers to choose any seat they want.
Southwest’s onboard announcements also delight their passengers as flight attendants are, on occasion, known to sing, tell jokes or, sometimes, dance. For these reasons, Southwest has taken up residence at the top of most surveys and rankings. Southwest travelers, welcome to Savannah. It’s a match made in the clouds.