I think between the crazy hot housing market and a large number of people moving to the Bellingham area it’s safe to say the word is out about how amazing this corner of Washington State is. But it’s about to get put on a whole new map, an airline destination map that is! Southwest Airlines announced its plans to come to Bellingham!

This has the obvious benefits of more flights in and out of Bellingham and connecting us to the amazing network of destinations Southwest Airlines flies to. It also comes with potentially a huge economic boost to our region.

I had the opportunity to meet up with Sunil Harman, the Director of Aviation at Bellingham International Airport to ask a few questions about the new service and the potential economic benefit to our region. He talked about something called the Southwest Effect, a term coined by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1993. The general idea from the analyst was when Southwest entered a market it tended to see positive competition and lower prices in the region. Harman indicated that this is still very much the case and believes we will see the Southwest effect ring true here in our region. This is great news for Bellingham’s thrifty Bellingham travelers. It’s also good for tourists coming to our wonderful area. Harman said “We are very enthusiastic that southwest wants to serve Bellingham because it enables the people here as well as our tourists from Canada to be able to have a one-stop connection to just about anywhere in the united states. They have such an extensive network of service; it’s dependable, reliable, and most of all its efficient.”

As far as the economic effect. Harman talked about the state of Washington’s most recent economic impact study and it had “The Bellingham Airport contributing about $470,000,000 a year into the state’s economy. This is direct activity at the airport, associated activity off-airport related to aviation, and the multiplier effect of that income being dispersed and circulated within the economy.” If southwest comes to Bellingham this year Harman is projecting on the conservative side that we could see a doubling of that number. In addition to the easier travel options for locals and tourists, this also could bring some new companies to the area that are on the fence as to where to move and how to operate their companies post covid. With the rise in people being able to work remotely this could create a perfect life and work balance opportunity for companies and their employees.

To sum this all up, Harman is optimistic Southwest is coming very soon. When exactly is contingent on a few factors including the Canadian border opening up or possibly a phased plan to open the border. Where will they be flying to and from? Southwest is working on that and will let us know hopefully later this year. But we know they have a great network, so I am sure it will be to some great destination or an easy connection to them.

We are excited to have another major airline come to Bellingham and look forward to jumping on a Southwest flight from Bellingham soon!

-Keith Zackel, John L Scott Real Estate Bellingham


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