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Guest donaltopablo

Southwest could challenge US Airways

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Guest donaltopablo

Southwest aims to expand in Philly

Southwest Airlines Inc. wants to grow beyond the 28 flights per day it plans for Philadelphia International Airport by July, but the discount airline would have to obtain more gates to do so.

Southwest Chairman Herb Kelleher said at a business breakfast Wednesday in Philadelphia that the Dallas-based company would have to expand beyond the four gates it has at Philadelphia International in order to add additional flights.

The breakfast, which featured Kelleher as the keynote speaker, was organized by talk radio station WPHT (1210-AM). The Philadelphia Business Journal, an affiliated publication to the Dallas Business Journal, was one of the sponsors of the event.

Southwest will begin 14 daily nonstop flights starting May 9, and an additional 14 daily nonstop flights will begin in July. Destination cities include Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans, Phoenix and Providence, R.I., among others.

"We'll be trying to get additional space at Philadelphia International as time goes on," Kelleher said.

Kelleher said Southwest has no official plans for new flights beyond the 28 announced, and any expansion would not occur for another eight to 10 months.

Philadelphia International has 120 gates, and US Airways operates roughly 80 of them.

Kelleher noted that it took Southwest six to seven years to grow its operations at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, where it is now the dominant airline. Southwest has 161 daily nonstop flights out of BWI and operates 19 gates there with more than 2,500 employees.

The Southwest Web site says that, in addition to the four gates it operates at Philadelphia International, it has 100 employees there.

Southwest's entrance into Philadelphia -- and any further expansion at Philadelphia International -- is expected to create tough competition for US Airways, which is the dominant local carrier with 375 daily nonstop flights and 5,500 employees.

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