Southwest Coming to Reagan National

Whiles its local service is concentrated at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Southwest Airlines has become more of a presence at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. (Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest Airlines)

Looking for nonstop air service between the Washington area and Sarasota Bradenton International Airport? The options will expand after the new year dawns.

Southwest Airlines has selected Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport as one of the cities it will use to inaugurate service to Sarasota, located on Florida’s west coast. Service will commence in February, with the city becoming the 10th in Florida being served by Southwest.

“Our customers who choose SRQ [the airport code for Sarasota] will land closer to their preferred beaches and business meetings, benefiting from our added investment in the growing region between our longtime cities of Tampa Bay and Fort Myers,” said Steve Goldberg, Southwest’s senior vice president of operations and hospitality. “Locals who fly Southwest can also pair their preferred airline and airport, and get in the air faster with a shorter drive to SRQ.”

The airline’s booking engine shows two to three flights per day in each direction in February and March. Service also is slated to commence to Sarasota from Chicago-Midway, Houston-Hobby and Nashville airports early next year.

Southwest is the dominant carrier at BWI. The Baltimore-to-Sarasota route currently is served nonstop once a day by Allegiant Airlines.

(While the destination of Sarasota qualifies as “new” for Southwest, the airport long had been served by AirTran, but those routes were killed off in 2012 after Southwest absorbed that carrier.)

Picking up a new carrier is a feather in any airport’s cap, particularly in the current environment.

“We are thrilled to welcome Southwest Airlines – especially significant during these challenging times in aviation,” said Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport said. “Southwest’s low fares and renowned customer service will provide the bi-county community, as well as our inbound visitors, with access to the vast network of destinations that Southwest Airlines serves.”

In 2019, the 1.97-million passenger overall count was up 43 percent from a year before after several years of stagnant performance.

In more recent data, the total passenger count this September was down 47 percent from a year before, although many airports would salivate to see a decline of less than 50 percent in the COVID era.

Delta and Allegiant are the dominant carriers at the airport, which opened to passenger traffic in 1940 and was first served by commercial jets when National Airlines introduced them in 1961. The terminal is located about three miles north of downtown Sarasota and six miles south of downtown Bradenton.

For Northern Virginians who want nonstop service to Sarasota but do not want to cross into Maryland to attain it, American Airlines currently has one round-trip per day from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and United regional carrier Mesa offers once-daily service from Washington Dulles International Airport.

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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