Southwest Airlines is eliminating service between Philadelphia and T.F. Green Airport near Providence and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, a move the airline said is due to less demand for Philadelphia and not because it is focusing on Boston.
The cuts - four daily flights from each airport to Philadelphia - will take effect Jan. 8. The airline is also cutting its daily flight from T.F. Green to Phoenix.
Southwest will also reduce the number of flights from Philadelphia to Logan International Airport to six from eight daily in January, and to five a day in February.
"In Philly, we've just made a decision to reduce service because we just feel like those aircraft can perform better elsewhere," said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz.
In short, the airline is having trouble filling planes. To attract more passengers, Southwest is offering $39 one-way sale fares on flights from Philadelphia to all three New England airports.
All together, the airline is cutting 12 nonstop routes in January, including four to Philadelphia, three to Boise, and three to Seattle/Tacoma.
These reductions reflect changes in Southwest fuel purchases that make it more expensive for the airline to fly those routes, said Michael Friedman, a senior equity analyst at Delaware Investments in Boston. And with legacy carriers cutting costs to compete with discount airlines, Southwest no longer dominates certain routes the way it used to.
"Markets which were at one time profitable are no longer profitable, and they're reallocating their resources to address the local markets," Friedman said.
Southwest is also adding two local routes in January, a daily flight from Manchester to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a daily flight from T.F. Green to Denver. Between the cuts and the new service, Manchester is losing two Southwest flights a day, and Providence is losing one, Mainz said.
"It's not all doom and gloom," he said. "I certainly wouldn't take this as a sign of things to come that they're going to continue to lose service."
Airport officials at Manchester and T.F. Green anticipate that US Airways, which offers a number of daily flights to Philadelphia from each airport, will compensate for the loss of service.
"We're obviously disappointed that Southwest couldn't make the Philadelphia service work, but we're also fortunate that US Airways has such a strong presence in that market and anticipate that they will enthusiastically welcome any additional demand to Philadelphia and beyond," Mark Brewer, Manchester airport director, said in a statement.
Southwest is trying to reach unique markets from Boston, Providence, and Manchester, said Kevin Dillon, T.F. Green chief executive, pointing out that Southwest flies nonstop from the two smaller airports to Orlando, Tampa Bay, and Fort Lauderdale but does not fly to any of those Florida destinations out of Logan.
"I think they're utilizing all three airports to the best of their advantage," he said.
AirTran Airways, recently acquired by Southwest, flies nonstop from Boston to Sarasota and Fort Myers in Florida, as well as to Orlando.