Delta Air Lines' longtime lock on the Charleston-to-Atlanta route will see competition next summer.
Southwest Airlines plans to add a nonstop daily flight from June 7 until Aug. 10 between the Holy City and the Georgia capital, the Dallas-based carrier announced Wednesday.
Delta now operates all flights from the Lowcountry to its hometown and headquarters hub in Atlanta.
Southwest's new route to Atlanta is expected to have an effect on prices at South Carolina's busiest airport, especially around the timing of the flight. The airline's new service will leave Charleston at 12:30 p.m., according to Southwest's website. The return flight from Atlanta is 1:20 p.m. The one-way price starts at $84 for the flight that takes about an hour.
Delta's website shows the least expensive one-way ticket from Charleston to Atlanta on June 7 at about $253. The economy seats are sold out for that date, but the one-way price for basic seating in mid-July is $218 for roughly the same departure time as the new Southwest offering.
"It can't have anything but a positive impact on prices," said Gary Edwards, a liaison for Charleston International and the tourism agency Explore Charleston. "Delta will respond appropriately most likely with a measured response."
Also in June, Southwest plans to add a nonstop leg on Saturday only to Kansas City, Mo., starting June 13 and continuing through Aug. 8. The flight will take off from Kansas City at 10:45 a.m. and leave Charleston at 2:35 p.m. The one-way price starts at $223 for the nearly three-hour trip.
Southwest has not set its flight schedule beyond Aug. 10, according to its website.
"We appreciate the demand for Southwest service at Charleston International Airport, and we look forward to providing Charleston travelers with these additional flight options," Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said.
Charleston airport officials hailed the airline's additional routes as an added benefit to the growing Charleston region and a plus for air travelers between both markets.
Southwest began serving the Charleston area in 2011, a year that became "a game-changer" for low-fare air service in the Lowcountry as other discount carriers such as JetBlue, Allegiant and Frontier followed, according to Helen Hill, chairwoman for Charleston County Aviation Authority and CEO of Explore Charleston.
Southwest's original service from Charleston included seven nonstop, daily flights to Baltimore, Chicago, Houston and Nashville. The carrier also flies seasonally to Dallas, Denver and St. Louis. Its service to Dallas and Denver extends through Jan. 5 before flights return in April.
Atlanta is the third most-popular city of origin for visitors to Charleston, Hill said. New York City is first, and Washington, D.C., is second.
"Increasing air service provides an opportunity to reduce travel by car for our friends from Atlanta," she said. "We are excited to expand our reach to the Midwest, too. Kansas Citians now have a convenient and affordable way to visit our vibrant region and discover the magic of the Lowcountry.”
With the additional flights next June, Southwest will operate 10 daily flights, 14 flights on Saturday and 16 on Sunday.