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Southwest is shuffling flights off to Buffalo

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Southwest Airlines Co. has selected Buffalo, N.Y., as its next destination, continuing its expansion in the Northeast and filling a hole in its route network.

With the addition of Buffalo, Southwest will now serve six cities in the Northeast. The other cities are Providence, R.I.; Manchester, N.H.; Islip, N.Y.; Hartford, Conn.; and Albany, N.Y.

The Dallas-based low-fare carrier has scheduled a news conference Tuesday in Buffalo to announce the new service, its schedule and fares. The airline will not make any other comments until the official announcement, a Southwest spokeswoman said.

Southwest began expanding into the Northeast in October 1996 by flying to Providence. Including Buffalo, four of its last five new destinations have been in the region, which has traditionally lacked service by low-fare carriers.

Buffalo will be the 57th city in Southwest's route network, enabling the airline to attract customer traffic not only from upstate New York but also western Pennsylvania, Ohio and parts of Canada. Buffalo will complement the airline's service to Albany, which began in May.

Southwest won't be the only low-fare carrier in Buffalo. Start-up carrier JetBlue Airways began flying to the city in mid-February, and AirTran Airways and Vanguard Airlines also operate flights out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The airport currently serves 3.6 million passengers annually with 108 daily flights. It is expanding its east concourse to add seven gates, with four available in September and three in December.

Unlike other airlines, Southwest avoids flying to hub airports where congestion can lead to lengthy delays and higher costs.

The carrier's low fares, and the resulting increase in air travel, have made Southwest so popular that it has long maintained a waiting list of about 150 cities eager for its service.
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