Southwest Airlines subsidiary AirTran Airways is looking at starting up to eight international routes this year, and wants to set up a federal inspection services facility at Houston Hobby airport to drive that growth.
AirTran has already announced it will start flights from San Antonio, Denver and Austin-Bergstrom to Cancun later this year, as well as flights between Orange County and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.
It is also awaiting approval for flights between Chicago Midway and Cancun. AirTran is competing for those rights with Frontier Airlines, which has applied to begin flights between Chicago O'Hare and Cancun.
Southwest's director for domestic and international planning John Kirby says the Department of Transportation is likely to announce a decision soon on the awarding of those rights. "We believe that it's going to be judged fairly," he says.
Southwest is also in talks with Houston Hobby to begin international routes operated by AirTran and wants to establish a federal services inspection facility to grow an international network. This could be up and running by 2015, says Kirby.
The markets that Southwest is looking to fly to from Houston Hobby are Mexico, the Caribbean, New Orleans and South America, says Kirby.
Including new routes from Houston Hobby and the Chicago Midway-Cancun route, Southwest is hoping to launch up to eight international routes by year-end, says Kirby.
Southwest and AirTran achieved a single operating certificate last week, allowing the two carriers to begin integrating their networks and operations. The first AirTran Boeing 737 is having its livery changed to Southwest colours this week, says Kirby.