PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Move over American Airlines, formerly U.S. Airways.
Southwest Airlines can claim to beat you, sort of.
Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, sat down with KDKA money editor Jon Delano late Thursday afternoon.
Delano: “How does it feel to be Pittsburgh’s number one airline, at least with respect to the non-stop destinations that you fly out of this city?”
Kelly: “It’s very gratifying.”
Kelly has overseen the Pittsburgh growth since the airline — with great hoopla and hype — started flying out of here 11 years ago.
When KDKA talked to Kelly back on May 5, 2005, his message was the same as today.
Kelly: “We’re the low fare leader in the United States of America when it comes to air fares. I think the hype is the reality.”
Delano: “The hype is the reality? Those $29 fares aren’t going to disappear after you’re here for a month?”
Kelly: “They’re introductory fares, but you can count on low fares from Southwest Air always, guaranteed.”
Today, Kelly says that hasn’t changed.
Delano: “Are there any special deals you’re offering folks here in Pittsburgh?”
Kelly: “We’ve always got great deals, and a couple times a year we’ll have a really big sales.”
Southwest now flies to 16 destinations nonstop with 30 flights a day from Pittsburgh.
American flies to 13 cities but with 50 flights daily.
The passenger load on both airlines is practically even.
Southwest hopes to add new destinations in the years ahead.
“We’ve got a half a dozen on our list that we’ll continue to evaluate, and we’ll keep that a secret,” says Kelly.
Local Southwest travelers say they do like lower prices.
“So this flight didn’t really cost me much — $22,” says Butler resident Robert Philpot.
His destination? Orlando, Florida.
For Karie Weaver, it’s the service.
She’s moving back home to Pittsburgh from Atlanta.
“I fly Southwest all the time. That’s what we use. That’s what we go with. And we’ve always had a good experience,” says Weaver.
But not everyone is a fan.
“I’ve lost a bag and they’ve yet to find it,” said Dena Calhoun of Detroit.
But even she likes the in-flight service.
“The flight attendants and the pilots are amazing. That’s why I usually chose to fly with Southwest. They are funny, they are nice, and they give you anything that you want.”
That helps explain why Southwest is growing in Pittsburgh.