Southwest Airlines is prepared to move into a new international concourse at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport later in June, with four new international destinations set to launch this weekend.
The Dallas-based carrier will occupy three of the five international gates on the $333 million concourse A in terminal 1 at the South Florida airport, which will open in the next few weeks.
The facility, paid for by Southwest, will facilitate the expansion of Fort Lauderdale into one of its primary gateways to the Caribbean over the next few years. The airline serves six international destinations from the airport with Belize City, Cancun, Grand Cayman and Montego Bay set to begin on 4 June.
Service to Providenciales in Turks and Caicos will begin on 5 November, bringing the number of international routes from Fort Lauderdale on Southwest to 11.
"There's still more to come from Southwest in South Florida," says Gary Kelly, the airline's chief executive, at a media preview of the new concourse. He declines to comment further on future destinations.
Speaking with FlightGlobal, he says he could see Southwest's presence in Fort Lauderdale growing up upwards of 10 flights annually for the next few years as it adds both new domestic and international services.
"The significance of the international is, we believe it will boost the traffic for us on our existing domestic routes," says Kelly. "We'll get connecting traffic from the northeast to Fort Lauderdale and on to the Caribbean and that may, in turn, drive a fairly immediate need to add domestic flights."
Southwest will operate more than 70 flights a day from Fort Lauderdale with the addition of Providenciales in November, a number that Kelly says is "a lot for us".
Concourse A is not the only improvement planned for terminal 1 in Fort Lauderdale. A new inside-security connector between concourses B and C in the terminal will open later in 2017, facilitating connections between Southwest's flights at the airport, says Mark Gale, director of the Broward County Aviation Department that operates the airport, at the event.
The airport hopes to connect all four of its terminals and their concourses inside security in the future, he says.
Southwest was the third largest carrier in Fort Lauderdale with 5.1 million passengers in 2016, airport data shows. JetBlue Airways was first with 7.29 million passengers and Spirit Airlines second with 5.73 million passengers.