February 10, 2014 / 6:54 PM / 5 years ago

Southwest looks to grow where rivals have downsized

Southwest Airlines jets wait on the tarmac at Denver International Airport in Denver January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

(Reuters) - Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) is looking for opportunities to add service in markets where other legacy carriers have scaled back, the budget carrier’s Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Kelly said on Monday.

These growth opportunities are “very exciting for all of our employees who want to do more,” Kelly said in an interview.

Kelly said Dallas-based Southwest was paying “close attention” to cities such as Memphis, Tennessee - a former Northwest Airlines hub and a market where Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) reduced flights in last year - as well as Cleveland, a city that United Continental Holdings UAL.N recently said it would drop as a hub.

Kelly noted that when AMR Corp’s (AAL.O) American Airlines reduced operations in Nashville in the 1990s, Southwest raised its daily departures in that market.

He also said that Southwest is now the largest carrier in St. Louis, Missouri, after American scaled back there following its acquisition of Trans World Airlines.

“Memphis is a smaller community, it probably has smaller potential than the two examples I provided there, but we’re going to pay very close attention to it,” Kelly said in an interview in Atlanta.

“We’re excited about being able to grow there and we’ll do as much as we can. Cleveland, I think, is the same way.”

Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta

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