Southwest Airlines' success at CVG could mean expansion there is on the horizon

HEBRON, Ky. -- Southwest Airlines is exceeding expectations thus far at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, so when exactly will the low-cost carrier expand its flight offerings here?

CVG officials say Southwest is looking at additional markets -- which ones, they won't say, and that decision could still be months away -- but so far, staff is pleased with their local performance.

Southwest launched at CVG in June with two city pairs: Baltimore-Washington, which is "wildly exceeding expectations; they are surprised how well," CVG CEO Candace McGraw said, and Chicago-Midway, which is also above par.

"They are looking at adding additional markets," McGraw said. "They like to gather six months of data before making additional decisions."

Southwest spokesman Dan Landson told that the airline tracks several specifics, including where passengers start and end their trip.

"From there, we’re able to identify the best routes that would make the most sense to the traveler and our network…we spend a lot of time analyzing the data and getting a feel for the best choice," Landson said.

"Things are going great for us at Cincinnati," he added. "We’ve seen a lot of great growth and we’re looking forward to the future."

McGraw said CVG flew in Southwest staff about a month ago to discuss any potential new markets. She declined to comment on what city pairs were discussed, or even what destinations CVG would like to see.

"I'm sure there's a pattern developing (from passengers connecting to other cities from Baltimore and Chicago) that merits direct service," McGraw said.

The addition of Southwest, coupled with the growth of ultra-low cost carriers Frontier and Allegiant, has helped drive record growth at the airport. CVG celebrated its third-best August ever in terms of local passengers with more than 362,500 -- a 30 percent improvement year-over-year.

On average, a roundtrip ticket also cost $170 less than it did two years ago.

"We're on a good streak at the moment," McGraw said. "We're bringing back passengers, now that we have different carriers, capturing some market share from other airports, and we're stimulating traffic for people who otherwise may not have traveled."

McGraw also addressed Delta's additional Paris flight from Indianapolis International, which was announced earlier this month. Once service starts in May 2018, it will end CVG's long-running streak as the only airport in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky to offer a trans-Atlantic flight, also to Paris. She said Indianapolis service will run just three days a week, versus six at CVG.

"We've talked extensively with Delta about Indianapolis," she said. "Our service (at CVG) has been in place for 20 years. It's strong. They're very happy.

"I think they'll co-exist nicely," she added. "I don’t think we'll lose anything."

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