Southwest ( LUV) began service to Minneapolis on Sunday, flying eight daily flights to Chicago Midway. But will Southwest's plans stop there? One option is to operate the one route, feeding the Southwest connecting complex at Chicago Midway, which has 214 daily departures to 47 cities. Chicago is the top destination from Minneapolis, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Option two is to expand in Minneapolis. That makes sense, because of the Minneapolis airport's top 10 destinations, nine are cities served by Southwest. Southwest's three busiest airports, in Chicago, Phoenix and Las Vegas, are all in the top eight destinations from Minneapolis. "We purposefully only offered service for now to Chicago to limit the risk in this economic environment," Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said at news conference in Minneapolis, The Associated Press reported. But other destinations -- especially to the West -- might make sense in the future, he said. Minneapolis-based aviation consultant Terry Trippler said that although the carrier was well received -- the governor and two mayors welcomed it to the state -- Southwest faces competition at the airport. Northwest, recently acquired by Delta ( DAL), carries 80% of airport traffic. Sun Country is a popular, privately held local incumbent.
"Minneapolis is a major hub for the world's largest airline," Trippler says. "Sun Country has a strong customer support base -- people who like Sun Country love Sun Country -- and it is now profitable. Also, American ( AMR) and United ( UAUA) are numbers two and three at the airport, and I don't expect them to just sit around." Trippler says he compared fares to six cities on both Southwest and Sun Country, and found that Southwest has lower fares in three markets, while Sun Country has lower fares in three others. But the Southwest service is connecting, while the Sun Country service is nonstop.