Southwest Airlines plans to unveil within days its first international flights, an important milestone in its complex integration with AirTran Airways which it acquired almost three years ago.
"We are within days of launching international sales for Southwest service," the airline's chief executive Gary Kelly says during an earnings call today. Kelly declines to give further details pending a formal announcement, but as indicated by the airline previously, its base of Dallas Love Field is expected to play a central role in those international flights.
AirTran had operated international flights before it was acquired by Southwest in May 2011, but the process to transition those flights to Southwest metal has entailed putting in place a new reservations system because Southwest's system was not able to handle international flights.
Kelly says the work on the new system, which it had hired Amadeus to carry out, is on track. The airline will announce details of its first international flights in the following days.
Southwest's move to operate its first international flights dovetails with the repeal of the Wright amendment at Dallas Love Field on 13 October. Kelly notes that the airline has 38 weeks to go until this is lifted.
The lifting of the Wright amendment will allow the airline to fly to destinations beyond the nine states that the legislation limits it to. Southwest has reiterated that it sees tremendous opportunity in Love Field.
Kelly was coy when asked to quantify how flight operations at Love Field will change after the Wright amendment is repealed. "We will probably ask you to stay tuned on that one," he says.
Love Field is not the only airport to feature in Southwest's international expansion. It will also begin international flights from Houston Hobby when a new international terminal it is paying for opens in late 2015. Further ahead, the carrier is also overseeing a makeover of terminal one at Fort Lauderdale International airport to enable the facility to handle international flights.