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Southwest solidifies No. 1 position here with third flight to Chicago New schedule boosts departures to 14 at Buffalo airport

Southwest Airlines is giving Buffalo area travelers yet another reason to fly to Chicago.

Starting April 28, the low-cost airline will offer a third non-stop flight to the Windy City, boosting its total daily Buffalo departure count to 14 flights.

"Our schedule planning folks are always looking at the markets we serve, and if we see the demand, we're happy to add flights," said Southwest spokeswoman Edna Ruano. "This is good news for Buffalo."

Southwest kicked off service to Chicago's Midway International Airport last June with a pair of daily departures, a move that helped propel the airline to the No. 1 carrier at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. In August 2005, the no-frills flyer nudged US Airways out of the top slot, a position it had held for more than 20 years, capturing 20 percent of passenger traffic.

Southwest maintained the No. 1 ranking from August through November of last year, but was temporarily unseated by US Airlines in the December tally. The Texas-based airline fought back hard in January, carrying 38,563 travelers out of Buffalo, and grabbing 23 percent of total flyers, its largest-ever market share. US Airways counted 35,761 Buffalo passengers last month, or 21 percent.

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said the extra Chicago flight is great news for local travelers.

"Any time we can add a flight to a major destination, like Chicago, it's another win for Buffalo passengers. We are delighted to get another Southwest flight," Hartmayer said.

The new Chicago flight will depart Buffalo at 11:25 a.m. daily. The airline's current flight schedule includes Chicago departures at 7:50 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, and 4:10 p.m. daily.

"The midday flight is an especially nice addition because it complements the early morning and late afternoon flights," Hartmayer said.

The new Southwest flight is expected to help the Buffalo airport toward its goal of making 2006 a fourth consecutive record-breaking year for passenger traffic.

In 2005, the airport set a new record when more than 4.8 million travelers passed through its gates. The goal this year is to surpass the 5 million milestone.

Southwest's additional commitment to passenger traffic at the Buffalo International Airport follows an announcement earlier this month that the airline will establish airline-staffed cargo service here. The airline had been using contract staffers to handle cargo operations at the Buffalo airport.

"That's good news for the Buffalo market because it shows demand is building for our cargo service and we'll now have our own employees on that side of the operation, too," Ruano said.

Southwest has leased 6,500-square-feet of space at Air Cargo Buffalo on Cayuga Drive as the base for its local air cargo operations.

On Thursday, in addition to the third Buffalo-Chicago flight, the airline also unveiled plans for a slate of 14 other schedule expansions around the U.S. Six of those new flights will serve New Orleans.


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