Southwest Airline’s New Flight Destinations Welcomed by All

by December 17, 2009 • 13 comments

Bob Montgomery, Southwest Airlines vice president of properties announced on Wednesday the new destinations from the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. While disclosing the much awaited news he told that there would be non stop flights to and from the new airport to Orlando, Baltimore, Houston, and Nashville. The announcement of the key destinations would eventually help tourists and regular travelers to get direct or connecting flights to other 58 Southwest gateway cities.

“We’ve tried to pick our finest,” Montgomery said. The new flights would serve about 2000 travelers per day. According to Christi Day, a spokeswoman of Southwest, the four destinations were chosen to draw visitors from those areas who were less frequent visitors to Panama City Beach. Further the new cities would open new markets to North Florida.  According to the Airport Authority, the one goal of the new $318 million airport was to market Florida to more vacationers.

Airport board member Rick Koehnemann said that travelers would be able to fly direct, without changing the flights to Chicago through Nashville (BNA), New York through Baltimore, and Dallas through Houston (HOU) and Ft. Lauderdale through Orlando. It would take three hours to fly between Chicago and Panama City with a short stop in Nashville. “You get four direct flights and four semi-direct flights,”Mr.Rick Koehnemann said.

Sonny Mares, executive director of the Beaches of South Walton Tourist Development Council, also welcomed the new announcements from Southwest Airlines. According to her, Baltimore was a great location for conventions and meetings and as such would help to increase group meeting business.

According to Tom Neubauer, the President of Bay Defense Alliance, a Baltimore-Washington route would be beneficial to the defense contractors who travel frequently from Washington to Baltimore.

Meanwhile, the Bay Country Tourism Development Council (TDC) has begun its public relations campaign through press releases, photos, video and other material about Panama City Beach. The TDC’s findings indicate that there are more than 3 million households in the four cities chosen by Southwest as potential markets for bringing business to Panama City Beach.

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1 Poolside December 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Folks, don’t get so upset about Chicago not being one of the non-stop destinations. As many of you have pointed out, incorrectly, Chicago, Midway Airport is indeed a direct flight. It takes 3 hours and 5 mins from gate to gate. I think some of you need help with the definitions so… here it is…

Non-stop= What you think it would be, The plane takes off from x airport and lands at z airport, without a stop.

Direct flight= You fly direct but have to land one or more times but STAY on the plane. You take from x airport, then land at y airport (stay on plane), then on to z airport.

Connecting flight= You will have one or more landings and will HAVE to change planes and possibly airlines. You take from x airport, then land at y airport (get off plane), then on new plane or airline, then on to z airport.

Please don’t confuse NON-STOP with Direct Flight. They are not the same.


2 Gerald R December 19, 2009 at 5:11 am

Maybe it was irony, but on the same day that Southwest made their announcement of the four destination cities, Delta announced a sale from Atlanta to Panama City. It is the first time I’ve ever seen a sale from Atlanta to Panama City. Southwest does not fly into ATL, but it is curious. By the way, the sale was quite restrictive and over quickly.


3 Dave Walter December 22, 2009 at 8:43 am

How will St. Louis fit into the mix? So far, no good connection with Nashville.


4 Craig December 22, 2009 at 10:44 am

I have the same question/concern that Dave asked about St. Louis. Nashville seems like the logical connection from here in STL. When I look at the schedule I see only a possible return flight through Nashville on an inconsistent basis. Not sure I want to fly to Baltimore or Houston to get there. I can drive in 11 1/2 hours, or continue to burn miles and uses Delta through Memphis or Atlanta. Hopefully they will bolster the STL connection through Nashville. That would be very convenient. I know that there are plenty of people in the STL area that vacation in Destin and the surrounding areas.


5 Jerry December 22, 2009 at 11:19 am

Just curious about the Orlando selection. Not sure there is a great need for intrastate travel between the cities of Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale and Panama City. Others, please provide the rationale for this decision. What am I missing?? I guess time will tell if this was a good choice. I just wish they would have added a stop in Birmingham after departing Nashville. Although many comments related to the relative proximity of Birmingham to Panama City, the option to not drive the 5 hours and fly instead would have been attractive to many residents. Maybe in time this leg will be added. Still, GREAT news that such a wonderful airline is going to be flying into Panama City Beach!


6 Sharon Ernst December 22, 2009 at 11:39 am

I’m still heartsick that there is no easier way for Louisvillians to get down there. It’s a three hour drive for us to Nashville, and then by the time you have to navigate the airport, pay for parking your car there a week and then fly down, I suppose we will have to continue driving 10 – 12 hours. It’s the first time I’ve seriously considered selling our property in PCB. We had been counting on getting there faster and EASIER. Nashville itself is a pain to navigate on the roads!


7 ANITA December 22, 2009 at 11:51 am



8 Mike December 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Agreed on Louisville, Ky. Need to request Louiville “Direct” flight through Nashville. Maybe if enough as, it could come.


9 jobeibi December 22, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Jerry, I’m thrilled that there is an Orlando connection! Without a direct, inexpensive flight, a trip to Disney World was a mandatory overnight stay. Now, we can take a quick trip to Orlando without spending 10-14 total hours on the road and a night in a hotel.


10 Paul Cannefax December 22, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Any idea what would be the best route from Salt Lake City? Seems like they had at one time a direct to Tampa


11 Chris December 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I don’t see the rationale for adding non-stop service to/from Orlando either. Some have commented how convenient it is for them for various personal reasons. Great for them, however, I must have misunderstood the purpose of providing the non-stops. I guess it was just my mistake thinking the non-stops were to open up new markets by providing inexpensive non-stop service to/from PCB. Yea, Orlando may be new as far as non-stop service, however, the Chicago or New York areas have MUCH MORE potential of bringing people from high cost of living areas (i.e. people who would thing the PCB area is a bargain!)

List of United States cities by population (courtesy of Wikipedia)
NOTE: These #s do not include the suburbs so the difference between each city and Orlando is actually much larger.

1 New York New York 8,363,710 (40 times larger than Orlando)
2 Los Angeles California 3,833,995 (20 times larger than Orlando)
3 Chicago Illinois 2,853,114 (10 times larger than Orlando)
4 Houston Texas 2,242,193 (10 times larger than Orlando)
5 Phoenix Arizona 1,567,924 (7 times larger than Orlando)
82 Orlando Florida 230,519

It would be very interesting to hear from someone from the TDC or St. Joes to comment on the decision of having Orlando as one of the non-stop airports instead of Chicago or New York. My guess is they were disappointed as well. Politically, it would not be correct for them to bite the hand that’s feeding them but there is more to this “Orlando decision” than is being made public. It does not make sense PERIOD!


12 Sandy December 28, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I couldn’t agree more with what chris stated! I also thought the goal was to bring in visitors from additional cities that are not considered drive-in markets in order to open up travel to new markets. Orlando is not that far away and I do not understand this rationale. It seems like New York, Boston or LA would have been much better choices.


13 Bearabull January 8, 2010 at 11:24 am

for the heck of it, I checked out a flight from Midaway in chicago to the new airport in July. I don’t think they will attract any new visitors from the Chicago area as it is only slightly less than taking Delta our of OHare. $11/more a ticket I think to fly out of Ord which is more convenient for a lot of people.