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Southwest Airlines can phase in more flights out of John Wayne Airport

Southwest Airlines can phase in more flights out of John Wayne Airport
Southwest plans to increase daily flights from John Wayne Airport. A plane takes off in this 2007 file photo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Southwest Airlines can phase in up to 15 more daily flights out of John Wayne Airport next year, bringing the carrier's total to 67, according to an annual plan approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors last week.

Each year, the airport and county officials allocate flights to the carriers that operate out of John Wayne to ensure that traffic stays within the airport's strict limits, but also to give airlines an opportunity to adjust their service based on passenger counts and other factors.

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Southwest was the only carrier to ask for additional flights for 2015, JWA spokeswoman Jenny Wedge said, though the plan also includes a standard provision potentially allowing for a new airline to start service from Orange County.

Of the 67 total daily Southwest flights anticipated by the end of next year, 28 will be Class A, meaning they will be counted as part of the airport's maximum of 85 average daily departures. Those typically travel longer distances and are the loudest flights.

The remaining 39 will be Class E flights, which travel shorter distances and are quieter.

This year, the airline is taking over two international flights operated by Southwest subsidiary AirTran. In August, AirTran flights to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, became Southwest flights. AirTran flights to Mexico City are to undergo the conversion Nov. 2.

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the airline probably will use its expanded capacity to add flights to new destinations as well as popular existing destinations, but there are no concrete plans yet.

"We have precious slots and we have big plans. We're pretty much everywhere we want to fly in the U.S," he said, adding that the airline can now "start drawing new lines between very strong dots that are already on the map, and Orange County is definitely one of those."

@JillCowan

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