PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Southwest Airlines says it will double the number of flights it operates in and out of Philadelphia, raising the competitive stakes with US Airways, the dominant carrier in the city.

Southwest Chairman Herb Kelleher announced Thursday that starting May 9 with 14 daily flights, Southwest will expand service on July 6 with trips to the Boston area, including Manchester, N.H., and other cities and doubling the number of flights to 28.

The Manchester-Philadelphia schedule will have four daily flights and cost $29 one way when booked with 14 days’ notice, $49 if tickets are bought at the counter, a Manchester Airport spokesman said.

Kelleher, in Philadelphia to meet with reporters, discounted fears voiced by David N. Siegel, president and chief executive officer of US Airways, that Southwest posed a major threat to that airline’s future.

“We will have 28 flights as of July 6. US Airways must have, what, 400 a day?” Kelleher said. “This is not the Viking killer ship coming in.”

Siegel had said in a video conference with employees a day earlier that US Airways’ survival was at risk without major concessions from labor groups.

“Herb Kelleher wants your job,” Siegel said. He said matching Southwest on fares would require severe cost-cutting that would mean labor groups could face pay cuts as high as 25 percent.

US Airways emerged from bankruptcy court protection a year ago; Dallas-based Southwest remained profitable during the prolonged industry slump following the 2001 terror attacks.

In trading Thursday, Southwest shares closed up 46 cents at $13.84 on the New York Stock Exchange. US Airway shares finished up 6 cents at $4.56 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

AP-ES-03-26-04 0216EST



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