Do you want to escape Bellingham’s rain and cold this winter? Starting November 7th, do just that and escape the California or Nevada sun.
Southwest Airlines announced on Thursday, June 10th that it would begin operating daily flights to and from Bellingham International Airport one week after Halloween.
“With this service pattern, customers arriving from nearly 40 airports on the Southwest network can land closer to southern British Columbia, Canada,” said a Southwest press release.
According to the airline’s route map, it currently offers non-stop connections to 35 destinations from Oakland and 66 from Las Vegas.
The service will initially include once daily flights between Bellingham and Las Vegas and twice daily flights to and from Oakland, according to the press release.
Tickets between Bellingham and these destinations are now available on www.swwest.com for just $ 39 each way, according to the press release.
Oakland and Las Vegas are the destinations Bellingham already serves through Allegiant Air, but there are benefits to Southwest flying to these locations, said Sandy Ward, president and CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism.
While the Allegiant model focuses on getting passengers to a vacation destination and offering hotel / rental car packages, Southwest offers a few connecting flights from Oakland and Las Vegas, including luggage transfers. With its low fares, flights from Bellingham to Oakland to Hawaii, for example, will become another option for going to Seattle for Hawaii flights, she said.
“We are very excited to have Southwest here, this is great news,” said Ward.
Port Commissioner Michael Shepard agreed with Ward on connecting flights, adding that Southwest, which has daily flights from Bellingham, is also making a big difference. He added that after such a tough year with the pandemic, he expects a recovery in travelers with more flights on offer.
“There is a lot of catching up to do with flights from Bellingham, so we will continue to encourage Southwest Airlines in the hopes that they will diversify destinations,” Shepard said.
The time for Southwest’s announcement comes as the US and Canada work to lift pandemic restrictions on the border. If the border reopens in the coming weeks, Ward said it would put Southwest in a good position to market Bellingham Airport for fall flights to travelers in Lower British Columbia.
Southwest first announced plans to commence service to Bellingham in a letter to staff on March 8, but the date and cities that would be destinations were not announced until Thursday.
Southwest’s announcement is a huge economic boost, “akin to igniting a jet engine’s afterburner,” Sunil Harman, director of aviation for the port of Bellingham, told The Bellingham Herald in March.
Like many U.S. airports grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, Bellingham saw a huge drop in passenger traffic over the past year. A total of 99,673 passengers departed from Bellingham, up from 343,628 in 2019.
Bellingham Airport has not yet recovered in 2021, although the numbers are improving. According to the port of Bellingham, 11,266 passengers flew out of Bellingham in May. That’s much better than the total of 882 passengers in May 2020 when pandemic restrictions were still in place, but still well below the total of 26,965 passengers in May 2019.
In addition to the potential for Southwest to increase those passenger numbers in the fall, Ward said, Bellingham could benefit from the “Southwest Effect,” where airports are seeing an increase in total air traffic as other airlines notice and may offer more flights themselves.
“Our airport has the capacity to add even more flights; it depends on the demand, ”said Ward.
Before the pandemic, Bellingham Airport saw less airport traffic as airlines shifted priorities and nearby Paine Field Airport in Everett began to add commercial flights. Bellingham’s peak year for air travel was 2013, when nearly 600,000 passengers left the airport.
Harman said Bellingham Airport could see an increase in passenger traffic in the second half of 2021, but several key factors need to be taken into account: vaccines keep virus numbers down, Southwest starts offering flights and restrictions are lifted on Canadian Loosened the limit.
Southwest joins Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air at Bellingham International Airport. Alaska flies daily to Seattle / Tacoma, while Allegiant flies non-stop to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs, Phoenix (Mesa) and San Diego.
David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and is now breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
Dave Gallagher has been reporting on the Whatcom County’s business community since 1998. His subjects include retail, real estate, jobs, and port redevelopment.