Southwest Airlines  (LUV) – Get Report said that starting next year it will fly out of Chicago O’Hare as well as Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental, stepping up competition against rival United Airlines  (UAL) – Get Report.

Dallas-based Southwest has traditionally flown out of Chicago Midway and Houston Hobby, two smaller airports. 

“Today’s announcement furthers our commitment to both cities as we add service to share Southwest’s value and hospitality with more leisure and business travelers,” Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said in a statement. 

Southwest last flew service out of both Houston Hobby and IAH in 2005. 

The company said that work is underway at Chicago O’Hare to add new service there and that service to both airports is anticipated to start in first-half 2021. 

O’Hare is in the midst of a $2.2 billion expansion with a new global terminal as its centerpiece. United Airlines is based in Chicago.

Last week, Southwest said that to avert job cuts and furloughs, it was asking its labor unions to accept pay cuts as federal aid to carriers was set to expire. 

Under the industry’s $25 billion agreement with the government, Southwest and other airlines were barred from furloughing or dismissing employees until after Oct. 1. 

The airline says that its revenue remains 70% below normal levels. 

The airline industry has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. 

Southwest has more than 4,800 employees based in Chicago and nearly 4,000 jobs in Houston. 

Southwest shares at last check were down 1% to $39.35. United Airlines stock was trading off 2.1% at $36.36. 

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By Jessica Jaganathan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices slipped on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump dashed hopes for a fourth stimulus package to boost the coronavirus-hit economy and on a larger-than-expected build-up in U.S. crude stocks.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude <CLc1> oil futures fell 87 cents, or 2.1%, to $39.80 a barrel by 0104 GMT while Brent crude <LCOc1> futures fell by 74 cents, or 1.7%, to $41.91 a barrel.

President Trump, still being treated for COVID-19, ended talks on Tuesday with Democrats on an economic aid package for his pandemic-hit country with the U.S. presidential election only weeks away.

Price were also pressured by data from the American Petroleum Institute showing U.S. crude oil stocks rose by 951,000 barrels last week – more than expected. <API/S>

“(This was) not exactly what the recovery doctor ordered as the oil market was already tanking from a two-week high after President Trump quashed hope for a pre-election stimulus deal,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist, at online brokerage AxiCorp.

But losses were limited by restrictions on the supply side.

Energy companies were busy securing offshore production platforms and evacuating workers on Tuesday, some for the sixth time this year, as Hurricane Delta took aim at U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 17% of total U.S. crude oil output.

In Norway, meanwhile, the Lederne labour union said on Tuesday it will expand its ongoing oil strike from Oct. 10 unless a wage deal can be reached in the meantime. Six offshore oil and gas fields shut down on Monday as Lederne ramped up its strike, cutting the country’s output capacity by 8%.

(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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OSLO (Reuters) – Norway’s Lederne labour union will expand its ongoing oil strike from Oct. 10 unless a wage bargain can be reached in the meantime, it said on Tuesday, confirming a statement from the country’s state-appointed wage mediator.

Six offshore oil and gas fields shut down on Monday as Lederne ramped up its strike, cutting output capacity by 8%, or around 330,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed), according to the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association (NOG).

The planned Oct. 10 escalation would hit four additional fields operated by Equinor

and ConocoPhillips

but it was too early to say how it would affect oil and gas output, a spokesman for the NOG said.

The dispute began on Sept. 30 when wage talks between Lederne and the NOG collapsed, but the first production outages only started on Oct. 5.

Lederne earlier on Tuesday sent a proposal for a solution to the NOG, but its terms were not met, it later said.

“We received a reply from the NOG to our proposal, but it was not specific enough, and we have decided to escalate the strike,” Lederne union chief Audun Ingvartsen told Reuters.

“I hope that the escalation could still be avoided if the NOG comes back with a better proposal,” he added.

An escalation of the strike would add 93 more workers to the 169 who are already part of the conflict, out of a total 1,003 offshore members represented by Lederne.

Equinor’s Oseberg South, Oseberg East and Kristin fields, as well as the ConocoPhillips-run Ekofisk Bravo/Kilo installation would be added to the strike, the NOG said.

The conflict gave a boost to global oil prices for a second straight day on Tuesday.

Gas supplies from Norway to the rest of Europe were recovering some lost ground on Tuesday,

A new health insurer in southeast Minnesota plus expansion by returning carriers in many southern and western counties means more options for people buying coverage on the state’s MNsure exchange.

MNsure announced Friday that 80 counties next year will have three or more health insurance companies selling through the exchange, compared to just 31 counties this year. Open enrollment for 2021 health plans begins Nov. 1.

The number of carriers selling coverage across the Twin Cities and counties in northeast Minnesota is mostly holding steady, according to a Star Tribune review of materials from the state Commerce Department. Across the southern and western parts of the state, the number of insurers selling individual coverage is growing from two carriers to three or even four insurers, in some places.

The number of insurers competing can provide an important check on premium costs. In its announcement Friday, Commerce said individuals who buy their own health insurance policies through MNsure will see rate increases that average between 1% and 4% next year.

The premium increases are relatively modest compared with the long-term trend with rising health care costs, which generally rise faster than inflation. The new rates also the latest sign of stability, Commerce says, for consumers who buy health plans through MNsure and suffered through premium spikes several years ago.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


Twitter: @chrissnowbeck

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