Southwest to launch first international flights in July

Washington DC
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Southwest Airlines will begin transitioning flights to Aruba, the Bahamas and Jamaica from Orlando International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Baltimore-Washington International airports to its own banner in July.

The Dallas-based low-fare carrier will fly once daily from Atlanta to Aruba and Montego Bay, from Baltimore-Washington to Aruba and Nassau, and from Orlando to Montego Bay from 1 July. The carrier will also fly twice-daily from Baltimore to Montego Bay, and Saturday-only from Orlando to Aruba.

The flights are currently operated by Southwest-subsidiary AirTran Airways.

Southwest began selling the routes on 27 January with an Amadeus booking system, which has been operating “exceptionally well” in the first few hours since it went live, says Randy Sloan, the carrier’s senior vice-president and chief information officer, during a webcast announcing the routes today.

Connections will initially be available from Boston and Pittsburgh as the airline ramps up its international service.

Southwest also plans to eventually provide one-stop international service from Dallas’ Love Field airport after the Wright Amendment is lifted in October, which limits the direct flights that Southwest can provide from the airport to other US cities.

“I think this could be a 70 [to] 80 aircraft opportunity for Southwest Airlines,” estimates Bob Jordan, AirTran president and Southwest’s executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, when speaking about these southward international flights that Southwest will transition from Air Tran. Most of the routes are “over-fared,” he says, at ticket prices as much as two to three times higher than what Southwest would charge.

He notes that the Southwest network also plans to see a “big uptick” in growth when its terminal at Houston’s Hobby airport comes online in 2015.

Southwest will likely not add any new international cities in 2014, say executives, noting that any service to new destinations would start in 2015.

The full integration of Southwest and AirTran is “exactly” on budget and on schedule to finish by the end of this year, says Southwest president and chief executive Gary Kelly.

AirTran will continue to operate flights between Atlanta and Nassau and between Chicago Midway and Montego Bay until later on in the integration process. It will also continue flying from Cancun, Los Cabos and Mexico City, Mexico as well as Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.