We are thankful to leadership from SWA for recently traveling to Islip for a briefing to Long Island Association (LIA) Board Members. Local business leaders now have a broader understanding of ISP’s largest carrier.
Listening to the Southwest leadership team talking with Kevin Law, Long Island Association President and CEO; Angie Carpenter, Islip Town Supervisor; and 35 or so local business leaders gives us new appreciation for our airport, airlines and area. We believe the information is valuable to a wider audience, as well, since so many of you support our efforts at ISP.
The LIA meeting is the second visit to Islip from Southwest leadership in the past few months. Nate Barker, Manager of Network Planning for Southwest, helped us launch the FlyMacArthur marketing campaign in March.For the June LIA briefing Dave Doty, Senior Manager for SWA; Michael Beck, Senior Analyst, Capacity Planning for SWA; and Scott Laird, Business Development for SWA were on hand to speak to some of the strategies the airline is using to boost its growth and stability at ISP.
According to the presentation, one of the most important upgrades for Southwest system-wide is its recent introduction of a new, $500 million reservation system. The new technology replaces a 30-year-old system giving customers additional convenient features, and providing Southwest more scheduling flexibility.
Doty conveys Southwest’s ISP service is doing well, and the airline is very happy with our facility’s convenience and operations overall. As the airport continues its FlyMacArthur marketing campaign, Doty hopes more customers will become aware of ISP’s stress-free atmosphere and time savings.
For example, Doty says some travelers still fight traffic to LaGuardia for flights to Dulles or Reagan instead of making ISP to Baltimore / Washington International Airport their first choice for easy travel to Washington, DC.
He also observes that travelers sometimes overlook Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) as an excellent gateway to flights to the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica and many other destinations.
Here are some of Southwest’s strengths, according to the presentation:
- No hidden fees
- Bags fly free (even golf bags!)
- Recently ended practice of overbooking flights
- Offers up to 15 daily nonstop flights from ISP to Baltimore / Washington International (BWI), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL), Orlando International (MCO), Tampa (TPA) and West Palm Beach (BWI)
- 4,000 daily flights to just over 100 cities in the U.S. and eight other countries system-wide
- Award winning Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program
- Commitment to the highest level of customer service
While there were plenty of SWA highlights in Doty’s remarks, the presentation also reveals some of the business realities the airline is facing. He recalls some of the airline industry challenges over the past 10-15 years, and reminds briefing participants of the many buy-outs, bankruptcies and turbulent times for aviation.
Doty sums up that “lost-decade” period by saying, “It was not an easy time to run an airline. Herb Kelleher’s successor, Gary Kelly, had to make some tough strategic decisions to the business model that enabled Southwest to remain profitable.” With oil peaking at $143 a barrel, only the strongest would survive.
Another big change for Southwest is the airlines’ larger Boeing 737-800 aircraft. With 175 seats, the larger jets provide nearly 30 percent more capacity than their 143 seat Boeing 737-300s. Additionally, they are more fuel efficient and eco-friendly.
The 2010 acquisition of Air Tran Airways is another milestone on the airline’s timeline. “Our customers were asking for international service, and Air Tran provided that component,” Doty adds.
Doty expects 2017’s third and fourth quarters, and 2018, to bring new challenges and new opportunities. The retirement of about 40 aircraft this fall will make creative and optimistic business thinking crucial. Doty says the intense competition and major shifts within the aviation industry requires conscious decisions about where each aircraft will fly. Realistic expectations and patience will be important.
We are grateful to Southwest Airlines leadership for attending the marketing campaign launch and the LIA meeting. Please join me in expressing our support to our partner Southwest. Special thanks also go out to the Long Island Association, the Town of Islip, and all those backing our hometown airport. FlyMacArthur!