Curtis leaves comments from a posting in August about Southwest Airlines:
"It is not true that Southwest won't fly to an MSA of less than 1,000,000 people. It currently flies to 17 of them, not counting any cities in Hawaii. Five of these (Midland/Odessa, Amarillo, Lubbock, Harlingen/South Padre, and Reno) are smaller than Springfield MSA (according to U.S. Census 2006 estimates). I also don't understand why they would only fly to one destination from SGF. The five smaller cities all have direct flights to at least three destinations each."
You're right Curtis, but there's a little more to it...
When Southwest began service in 1971, it was a Texas based airline serving only Texas cities (this was long before the company adopted its "million people in the MSA guideline"). The airline continues to service those small, legacy cities because it has a near monopoly on the service. Shawn Schroeder, the assistant director of our airport, used to work at the airport in Harlingen. The Harlingen MSA has about 378,000 people and Southwest service. He tells me that it's very difficult to entice other airlines to provide service there because they don't want to compete with Southwest. Southwest has no reason to leave Harlingen (or the other small Texas markets) because it has a lock on the market and they've always been there—the airline and Harlingen came to the dance together!
As for the Reno/Lake Tahoe market—its MSA is about the size of ours, but there's at least one very important difference: the tourism and gaming industry. The Reno airport has eleven airlines and moves approximately five million passengers a year. We have five airlines and less than a million total passengers a year. Given these facts, it's easy to understand why Southwest would serve the market. To compare our market to Reno, is to compare apples to oranges.
So, the bottom line is still true: today, in 2007, when people like me call Southwest and inquire about obtaining service, the airline says it generally doesn't consider service to an MSA of less than a million people.