Southwest announces first international flights to three Caribbean islands

TEXAS, United States, Friday January 31, 2014 – Set against the background of a steelpan beat, Southwest Airlines announced Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas as its first-ever international destinations.

Scheduled to depart from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando, the flights are part of the airline’s integration of AirTran Airways, acquired by Southwest in 2011, which currently flies the routes.

“By the end of this year, all of the international flying that is currently taking place on AirTran will be converted over to Southwest,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said on Monday at a news conference at the company’s Dallas Love Field headquarters.

Southwest anticipates the expansion of its international connections next year, including flights from Texas, and expects a five-gate international terminal to be completed at Houston Hobby Airport by the end of next year.

On Monday, the airline began selling tickets for daily nonstop international flights, and later this year it plans to add Cancun, Los Cabos and Mexico City in Mexico, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, all of which are currently served by AirTran.

Despite being the United States’ largest domestic carrier, Southwest has never flown internationally.

Now, the company is focused on transferring all of AirTran’s international flights to the Southwest system this year and will consider adding more destinations in 2015, Kelly said.

Eventually, international flights could represent a 70 to 80-aircraft operation for the carrier, according to Southwest Chief Commercial Officer Bob Jordan.

“You take the ring of where the [Boeing] 737 can fly and all of those cities are then inside of the route map that we could look at. I think the opportunity for Southwest Airlines over the next two to three years is very substantial,” Jordan said.

He added that destinations in Canada are being considered but that the carrier’s main focus is on increasing its service to Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)