Southwest Airlines’ first international flights take off today, kicking off the carrier’s next round of expansion beyond the borders of the USA.
The Dallas-based carrier’s first international service to Aruba from Baltimore/Washington International airport departed this morning, and will be followed by flights to Montego Bay and Nassau from the airport later today.
Southwest will also operate service from Atlanta to both Aruba and Montego Bay today, as well as from Orlando to Montego Bay. On 5 July, it will commence weekly service between Orlando and Aruba.
The carrier will operate twice daily to Montego Bay from Baltimore/Washington and daily on all of the other routes.
The flights were previously operated by AirTran Airways, which Southwest acquired in May 2011 and is integrating into its own operations.
“We are expanding upon Airtran's legacy and making it Southwest,” says Jack Smith, Southwest’ senior vice-president of operations at an event marking the flights at Baltimore/Washington airport.
Southwest, when it acquired AirTran, was not able to take over the latter’s international flights immediately due to limits in its reservations system. Southwest subsequently chose Amadeus to supply a new reservations system to allow it to sell international flights.
The carrier will continue to convert more of AirTran international flights to Southwest metal later this year. From 10 August, Southwest will take over AirTran’s flights to Cancun from Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington and Milwaukee, as well as those on the Atlanta-Nassau and Orange County-Los Cabos routes.
From 7 October, Southwest will transition flights from Denver to Cancun, and from Denver to Los Cabos to its own operations. This will be followed by the conversion of Chicago Midway-Cancun from 2 November.
Also from 2 November, Southwest will add the final two AirTran international destinations – Mexico City and Punta Cana – to Southwest ‘s network and finish the conversion of Cancun and Montego Bay.
AirTran will completely integrate into Southwest by end-2014, with the final AirTran flight to operate on 28 December between Atlanta and Tampa Bay.