BOSTON (CBS) – Southwest Airlines’ growth at Boston’s Logan Airport is expected to continue this year, despite problems caused due to an incident of aircraft skin fatigue on a flight on Friday in Arizona.
The airline voluntarily grounded 79 of its oldest 737-300 aircraft for further maintenance checks. The older Boeing planes account for about 15-percent of the Southwest fleet.
Cancellations of flights at Logan over the past three days have been at a minimum, with departures being on time, except for a few flights to Chicago’s Midway airport.
The arrival of Southwest at Logan two years ago has potentially set up a battle with low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways.
JetBlue enjoys a commanding lead as the peak summer travel period approaches.
Serving the Massachusetts market, Southwest has followed a three airport strategy flying from Boston, Manchester and Providence.
The airline has also changed its strategy of avoiding service at major airports in the northeast. It is increasing flights at LaGuardia and Newark in the New York area as well as in Philadelphia.
The biggest change for Southwest and Logan Airport should come later in the year when the proposed merger with AirTran Airways is completed. AirTran’s major hub is Atlanta and Southwest will gain access to the number one passenger traffic airport in the country. That is the last major market not served by the airline. Competition in that market could lower fares.
In addition, Southwest will gain valuable international airport landing slots to the Caribbean and Mexico.
What is uncertain at the moment is where the combined airline will operate from at Logan Airport.
Southwest is in Terminal E and AirTran in Terminal C. the best guess is a new alignment of gates in Terminal B for Southwest in 2012.
Southwest will officially celebrate its 40th anniversary on June 30th and carries more passengers than any other U.S. carrier.
Bob Weiss’ ‘All Things Travel’ reports can be heard on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.