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Southwest looks to expand Memphis presence

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said his airline is paying close attention to Memphis and is looking to expand its presence at Memphis International Airport.

Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Chairman Jack Sammons and Memphis International officials will be meeting with the airline's executives next week to talk about expansion.

Southwest has been flying out of Memphis for just over three months. In a interview with news organization Reuters on Monday, Kelly said they're already considering growing the number of flights in and out of Memphis.

"We're excited about being able to grow there and we'll do as much as we can," Kelly told Reuters.

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Southwest is currently operating six daily roundtrip flights out of Memphis International to Houston Hobby, Chicago Midway, Baltimore-Washington, Orlando and Tampa. The airline took over the gates owned by its subsidiary AirTran.

This summer Southwest is adding another flight to Baltimore.

Kelly told Reuters his airline is looking to grow and they're going to be focused on markets like Memphis and Cleveland, markets where legacy carriers have left.

In 2013 Delta Air Lines announced it was de-hubbing Memphis and cutting the number of daily flights. In recent weeks United said it was de-hubbing Cleveland.     

Sammons said he's bullish about Southwest's future and the low-cost airline could be one with the largest presence at Memphis International in the future.

"It's been extraordinarily successful and that's how you get more planes is by filling the ones up they provided," Sammons said. "We've done that and I think his comments today have affirmed what we've been talking about."

Kelly cited the airline's success in Nashville, southwest expanded there after American Airlines cut its flights. But he cautioned that Memphis is not as large of a market as other cities where Southwest has expanded.

Sammons and representatives from Memphis International will be meeting with Southwest executives next week in Dallas. Some of the areas they would like Southwest to add flights to: the Florida panhandle, the west coast and Dallas.    

"We're talking to them about maybe seasonally going to Panama City or somewhere in that marketplace," Sammons said. "We'd love to see them go out west in some of the markets that aren't served now. Certainly Dallas is on the radar once the Wright amendment goes away. So again, I'm real bullish about where we're headed with Southwest at some point they're likely to be our largest carrier."

A Southwest spokesman told FOX13 News the airline is pleased with its performance in Memphis and they will expand when needed. But it will take time to add those flights. They won't be landing them for awhile.

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