Southwest Airlines prepares for opening day in Denver |

Southwest Airlines prepares for opening day in Denver

DENVER – Greeted by erupting water cannon and cheering employees, a Southwest Airlines plane rolled up to Denver International Airport on Monday as the low-fare carrier prepared to resume service to the Mile High City after a 20-year absence.Southwest’s first two passenger flights from Denver are scheduled Tuesday, with service to Las Vegas and Chicago’s Midway Airport. The carrier also will offer Denver-Phoenix flights.CEO Gary Kelly said Southwest will add other destinations but declined to give specifics.”Hopefully we’ll see good customer response and ramp up quickly,” he said.Southwest will challenge Denver-based low-fare rival Frontier, which also serves Las Vegas, Chicago and Phoenix among its nearly 50 U.S. destinations.Dallas-based Southwest offered service at the now-closed Stapleton International Airport in Denver until 1986, when it left because of high costs. Southwest avoided DIA after it opened in 1995, again citing costs.Airlines were charged landing, lease and other fees averaging $16.85 per passenger when DIA opened, but that figure has dropped to an estimated $14.30 this year.Operating at Denver International means Southwest will compete head-to-head against Frontier and United Airlines, which has a hub there. Together, Frontier and United handle about 75 percent of the airport’s passenger traffic.Southwest plans to offer 13 daily nonstop flights to Chicago, Las Vegas and Phoenix from two gates at the Denver airport. Officials have said Southwest expects to employ about 40 people in Denver. —On the net:Southwest Airlines: http://www.southwestairlines.comUnited Airlines: http://www.ual.comFrontier Airlines:

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