SRQ - Officials at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport are on a mission to get more airlines to service the Suncoast. Now, they have re-opened communication lines with Southwest Airlines.
Airport officials are quick to point out this dialogue has covered no specifics as of yet, but after Southwest and its discount airline AirTran left SRQ last August, officials say the airport and that company didn't speak for about six months.
That changed last January when dialogue was reopened, but that doesn't mean anything is going to happen any time soon.
Despite recent rumblings, the likelihood that Southwest Airlines will make a return to SRQ anytime soon is slim. "I think it depends on what their future plans are, what’s their fleet plan, do they have the aircraft and how is our market performing," says Airport President Rick Piccolo.
Piccolo says while SRQ and Southwest are back on speaking terms, nothing official is in the works. "It was a few months ago that we re-established some dialogue with Southwest Airlines and kind of restarted the relationship, but it's a long ways from air service discussions. We didn’t even bring up any metrics or anything along those lines of air service."
It's not great news to passengers, several of whom said they'd love to see Southwest make a return. "We used to always fly Southwest when we started coming down. We would fly into Tampa, but now we have to have someone drive us back and forth. It’s more convenient for everybody if we just fly directly to here," says Bob Haddad.
While piccolo admits having Southwest back at SRQ would be an asset, it's more important to focus on what the airport does have, rather than what it's lacking. "When you look at our industry, we're down to five major carriers in this country, three network carriers, Delta, United and American, and two national carriers, Jet Blue and Southwest. Southwest is the only one we don’t have, so we have 80 percent of the service that exists in this country."
We did speak with a Southwest representative on the phone who told us that any decision to start or re-start service to a market depends on several factors including the availability of aircraft and whether or not the demand is there.