Southwest Airlines, one of the nation’s most successful and well-liked domestic carriers, is poised to launch more flights to international destinations beginning Oct. 15. The airline will offer service to 12 destinations in eight countries by the end of 2015, and has identified 50 other international destinations it may be interested in exploring for future growth.
For more than four decades, Southwest’s profitable business model has focused on providing short, domestic legs, often operating out of less crowded airports. Coupling low fares with an irreverent sense of style and fun, the carrier won the hearts of travelers, who embraced its unusual open seating policy and relative lack of upgrades.
Southwest’s offbeat formula has clearly worked well in the United States. As Bloomberg Business reports, the carrier has grown from four aircraft to almost 700, and is today the fourth-biggest U.S. carrier in terms of passenger traffic. It will remain to be seen, however, whether Southwest can duplicate its success in the international market.
In actuality, Southwest has been in the international market since 2011 when it bought AirTran Airways, which had routes to several cities in Mexico and the Caribbean. But beginning Oct. 15, Southwest will embark on a major expansion, offering nonstop daily service to six cities in Latin America and the Caribbean from a new, $156 million international concourse it has built at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). Southwest will open a second international terminal (at a cost of $295 million) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2017. By the end of 2015, Southwest plans to offer service to a dozen destinations, in eight foreign countries.
Fans of Southwest will be happy to learn that like domestically, they will be allowed to fly two checked bags for free. However, passengers departing from Mexico City, Montego Bay, Belize, or San José, Costa Rica will be strictly limited to just two bags, with no oversized or overweight baggage accepted.
All of Southwest’s international flights must be booked through Southwest’s website, and all ticket prices will be in U.S. dollars. Until the website is fully functional, call 1-800-I-FLY-SWA to book or inquire about flights.