Baltimore/Washington International airport will play a key role in Southwest Airlines' international growth in the coming years as the airline aims to expand its network beyond mainland USA.

"BWI will be front and centre of that [international] opportunity," Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly tells the audience at an event hosted by the Greater Washington Board of Trade in Washington DC today. Kelly announced at the event that Southwest will launch non-stop service to San Jose, Costa Rica from Baltimore/Washington on 7 March 2015.

San Jose will be Southwest's eighth international destination, and its sixth international point served out of Baltimore/Washington. Kelly has said that the carrier sees potential in adding up to 50 new destinations outside mainland USA.

Southwest also operates to Washington National and Washington Dulles airports, but Kelly emphasises that Baltimore/Washington remains the carrier's priority. The airline has operated from that airport since 1993, and is now the biggest carrier in the greater Washington area.

"We don't hub at Southwest," he says. "But our priority is BWI and that won't change." Washington National, where Southwest will operate 44 daily flights by November, will be complementary to the airline's operations at Baltimore/Washington, adds Kelly. The airline's flights out of Washington Dulles tend to be longer-haul in nature, he notes.

"We will have a very thoughtful and co-ordinated approach among the three airports," he says.

Southwest's new San Jose flights will give Baltimore/Washington its first route to Central America and its furthest south non-stop destination, says the airport's spokesperson.

Baltimore/Washington currently offers non-stop service to cities in Mexico and the Caribbean. The airport is in talks with airlines to add more international flights, says its chief executive Paul Wiedefeld.

The airlines range from all over the world, including in Latin America and Asia, he tells Flightglobal.

Source: Cirium Dashboard