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February 06. 2014 7:31PM

Southwest to resume non-stop Ft. Lauderdale flight

MANCHESTER — Southwest Airlines will again offer nonstop flights to Fort Lauderdale during the peak vacation travel periods in February, March and April at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, airport officials announced Thursday.

Seasonal nonstop Saturday flights to Las Vegas will begin in June and operate through Aug. 2.

The nonstop Fort Lauderdale flights will be offered on select Saturdays, and the number of seats per flight may vary depending on the demand. The current schedule shows 143-seat B-737’s, which could possibly be upgraded to 175-seat B-737-800’s.

“We are very pleased and thankful that Southwest is restoring nonstop service to Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale,” airport director Mark Brewer said. “These two cities fall within our top 10 destinations.”

Brewer said he hopes past experience with these nonstop flights, which have averaged well above 90 per cent full, will be repeated this year. “We hope the community will continue to support these two markets so we can expand the flight schedule in the future,” he said.

Las Vegas has proven to be a popular destination from Manchester, averaging 98 percent seats filled. But that is often outweighed by its high operating costs, according to airport spokesman Thomas J. Malafronte.

Most airline business models were predicated on oil being in the $60 to $70 per barrel range. When oil prices fall within the $90 to $100 per barrel range, or higher, as they have recently, it becomes increasingly difficult to pass those higher costs on to consumers through higher ticket prices, he said.

But when demand for air service increases, as it customarily does in New England from June to August, the airlines are able to add flights and serve long haul, lower yielding markets like Vegas while also meeting their revenue goals, Malafronte said.

Manchester doesn’t have a problem filling seats, according to airport officials. It had the highest percentage of seats filled per flight in the region last year at 86 percent. It was slightly higher for Southwest at 87.6 percent, the highest in its entire system.

But the challenge isn’t just filling seats. Southwest has to be able to price seats appropriately to meet revenue goals, without losing customers to competing low-cost carriers at Logan, Malafronte said.

More information on flight availability and fares is available at www.flymanchester.com, using the flights and airlines tab, or travelers can go directly to www.southwest.com.



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