updated 4/1/2009 3:36:20 PM ET 2009-04-01T19:36:20

Southwest Airlines just arrived in Minneapolis last month and it’s already adding flights to Denver.

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Southwest said on Wednesday it’s adding three flights a day to Denver beginning May 26.

Southwest started small in Minnesota on March 8, with eight flights a day to Chicago Midway, a route long dominated by Northwest Airlines out of its Minneapolis hub, as well as AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and UAL Corp.’s United Airlines. Both American and United have Chicago hubs.

Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said the performance of the Minneapolis-Chicago route has been better than expected. He said the load factor, or percentage of seats filled, has been running above Southwest’s average, which was 71.2 percent in 2008 but has fallen slightly in recent months.

While Southwest typically sees strong traffic from an established city to a new one, traffic originating in the new city is often weaker. But traffic originating in Minneapolis has been strong, he said.

Denver is a hub for UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, which has five flights a day between there and Minneapolis. Frontier Airlines runs four to five flights a day between the two cities.

The new Southwest Airlines flights come even though the carrier plans to reduce flying by 4 percent this year.

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