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Southwest Airlines to leave Bellingham International Airport

Members of the community are voicing their frustrations in light of the airline’s major decision

The Bellingham International Airport sign in Bellingham, Wash., on May 12, 2024. The sign is located on the corner of Airport Way and Airport Drive. // Photo by Liam Walsh

On April 25, 2024, Southwest Airlines announced its decision to end service at Bellingham International Airport by August 4. The decision was made due to uncertainty surrounding aircraft deliveries from Boeing. 

Many members of the Whatcom County community are upset with the decision, and have voiced their opinions in a petition titled “Encourage Southwest Airlines NOT to Discontinue Service in Bellingham, WA.” 

Anneke Palmerton, a Bellingham resident, started the petition. She explained what the airline’s decision meant for the community. 

“It was very devastating to hear the news. Since Southwest has come to Bellingham we have been able to travel a lot more. They offer such great affordability options. They are an awesome crew,” she said. 

The petition was started on April 27, two days after the decision was announced. As of Friday, the petition has 3,133 signatures, and dozens of community comments. 

Palmerton decided to start the petition after she noticed an outpouring of community concern on social media. “I did not think it would take off as quickly as it did, and it's been a whirlwind of support since then. It just goes to show how much support is out there,” she said. 

Many of the concerns are centered around the accessibility Southwest provides to the community. “Brass tacks, it's affordability and flight times,” Palmerton said. Her final destination is usually Phoenix or Salt Lake City, and with Alaska Airlines, a flight from BLI can cost her up to $200 more than with Southwest.   

Southwest has not directly addressed the petition, and Palmerton is unsure whether or not it has affected their decision. “I don't know that it will change anything but I have faith it will at least get their attention and make them reconsider not fully pulling out,” she said.   

Kip Turner, director of aviation for the Port of Bellingham, explained that the decision by Southwest came as a surprise. “We found out the night before the press release,” he said. “There was not any back and forth. It was totally unexpected and it caught us off guard.”


Allegiant Air plane parked at a Bellingham International Airport gate in Bellingham, Wash., on May 12, 2024. The airport is located in north Bellingham on Mitchell Way. // Photo by Liam Walsh

Currently, Southwest operates daily flights to Oakland and Las Vegas. The destinations will still be covered by Allegiant Air, another main carrier at BLI.

Turner doesn't believe the loss of Southwest will severely impact the prices of the remaining flights at the airport. However, he believes that because of industry-wide demand, prices have been increasing across the board.

“We still have a lot to offer from Bellingham International Airport, and we anticipate we will have either increased flights eventually from the two carriers we have remaining, or new carriers entering the market with new service in the near future. We're still optimistic and excited about our opportunities here,” Turner said. 

Turner also spoke to Southwest’s reasoning for its decision. According to him, “The anticipated aircraft deliveries they had scheduled for this year from Boeing was over 40 aircraft and they are getting less than half of that.”

A company spokesperson for Southwest echoed that point in an email on May 7. “For the airline, this was a business decision centered around how best to utilize our resources during a time of uncertainty around aircraft deliveries. As a grateful member of the business community in Whatcom County, it’s a difficult and regrettable exit because we simply aren’t meeting our performance requirements to continue operating,” the spokesperson said.

According to Turner, the lack of aircraft deliveries from Boeing is an industry-wide issue at the moment. Alaska Airlines is facing a similar problem to that of Southwest.

“Regarding 2024 aircraft deliveries, as we stated before, we expect Boeing will fall short of the 23 planned deliveries to us this year,” said Ben Minicucci, CEO and president of Alaska Airlines on the company’s quarterly earnings call.

Despite the current issues, Turner is optimistic that Southwest could return.  “This was not a decision for Southwest as far as performance. It was based on their delivery of aircraft. We feel like Southwest might one day return to our market once they get those fleet needs worked out,” he said. 

The spokesperson for Southwest made a similar comment in the email, writing, “We’re left with heartfelt regret for this necessary change in our network, but also have a hope that Bellingham might one day be back on our route map.”

Liam Walsh

Liam Walsh (He/Him) is a city news reporter this quarter for the Front. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism with a news/editorial concentration. In his free time he plays for the Western rugby team. Reach him at

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