Southwest Airlines has announced its intentions to start flying international routes for the first time in its history. Starting on July 1st, Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando will have daily (or near daily) flights to Jamaica, Aruba and The Bahamas. For those of you paying attention, I think this could actually be construed as Southwest Airlines announcing its intention to keep Airtran destinations with a bit of Southwest flair.
This makes sense because it fits within infrastructure that Southwest has today at those destinations. Southwest can “learn” how to be an international carrier and ensure its new reservations system which is debuting in international form with these additions.
Consider this: Southwest has been trying to have some form of international flight via partners or itself since 2008. It’s 2014 now. Wow, that took a long time.
These are the first announcements, I expect many more international announcements this year and next. I think Southwest will seek to cover the Airtran destinations it wants to keep first and then will start exploring flights to new destinations both across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea as well as to Mexico and Canada.
What this most defnitely is not is a move to a need for a different aircraft. Southwest’s current fleet plans can handle these flights just fine. It’s possible that additional foreign destinations may drive more 737-800/-8Max purchases but we expected that anyway.