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Southwest Airlines is continuing its rapid expansion during the pandemic, announcing plans Monday to add three more destinations in the coming months.

In a message to employees, CEO Gary Kelly revealed the airline will soon be serving Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Eugene, Oregon; and Bellingham, Washington. With the announcement, Southwest has now added 17 new destinations in the past year.

“I'm pleased to share with you all that today we're announcing our intention to serve three more destinations and continue our focus on putting our aircraft to work to pursue more customers and much-needed revenue,” Kelly said.

While that list of new destinations includes major locations like Houston, Miami, and Chicago (O’Hare), most of them are smaller cities like the most recent additions.

Kelly called the destinations “very different and appealing locations to both serve our existing customers and places where we feel Southwest can make a real difference for local travelers.”

Southwest hopes to start service to Myrtle Beach in time for summer vacations. The town is not only known for its beaches but is one of the top golf vacation locations in the country.

“Golf bags fly free should be very popular for Myrtle Beach service,” Kelly said, noting all passengers are allowed two checked bags on Southwest flights.

The additions of Eugene and Bellingham give the airline two more locations in the Pacific Northwest that allow passengers to avoid having to fly into Seattle or Portland if those aren’t their destinations. The Bellingham flights should also attract passengers headed to Canada.

“Southwest service in Bellingham positions us just south of metro Vancouver, British Colombia,” Kelly said. “Following the reopening of the Canadian border, we expect a return of the value-minded travelers who already drive to this alternative airport to escape high fares and taxes.”

Kelly expects to open service to Bellingham and Eugene in the second half of 2021. That’s when University of Oregon football games take place and Eugene becomes a destination for college fans.

Kelly said the rapid expansion has been beneficial for the company and its passengers. As an example, he pointed to flights into two Colorado destinations, Steamboat Springs and Telluride, that originally were meant just for ski season. The flights have been so successful, he said, that the routes will continue into the summer.

While Myrtle Beach, Eugene, and Bellingham are now in the planning stages for future flights, actual service to new locations begins this week with new flights into Hawaii from Colorado Springs, Savannah, and Long Beach. It’s part of a push by the airline to expand flights to the islands.

“That's a lot of work, a lot of new destinations, and a lot of options for our customers,” Kelly said. Other new Southwest destinations announced in recent weeks include service to Fresno and Santa Barbara, and flights to Sarasota, Florida.

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