MIAMI – Southwest Airlines is currently the 2nd largest airline operating in and out of Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) with 19% of the market share as of March 2017.

One of the contributing factors to this traffic has been the increase of their international Caribbean routes that have started over the past months. The initial international destinations served from Fort Lauderdale were Cuba and The Bahamas.

Southwest was granted permission to build an extension to the current Concourse A in Terminal 1 due to the increasing international destinations being commenced that needed additional facilities at the airport.

Initial construction for this terminal, that will accommodate an additional 5 gates, began in July 2015 and will also provide customs and immigration facility that will allow these gates to handle both international and domestic travel. In late June these gates will be completely operational and will relieve the additional pressure that has been put on Terminal 4 by the additional international arrivals.

Today, on June 1, 2017, the facilities were open to media and select guests for a sneak preview prior to the commencement of services to the gates and Airways Magazine was part of it to receive the preview of the facilities.

Following the presentation of the Colors by the Broward County Honor Guard and the Pledge of Allegiance attended by Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca; Mark Gale, the CEO/Director of Aviation for Broward County Aviation Department, led off the festivities by welcoming everyone to the new $200-million facility built in collaboration with Southwest Airlines and Broward County ahead of schedule and ahead of budget.

Gale noted the overall growth of traffic at FLL, “For example comparing our April 2017 figures against our April 2016 figures, we were 20% busier for an airport that handles an estimated 80,000 passengers a day; that is a growth of 16,000 passengers a day through this facility.”

In reference to the Southwest Airlines growth, Gale noted: “In July this year, Southwest will account for almost 21% of scheduled seats departing our airport, an increase of over 41% in the same month last year”.

With regards to the concourse itself, Gale made reference to the concessions and stores that will be available to all travelers, as well as something unique to a terminal, power to each seat in the concourse so all travelers will be able to charge their devices directly where they are seated.

However, Gale remarked the project does not end with the completion of Concourse A. He said “An accompanying set of improvements that is currently being constructed right next door in Terminal 1 and as nice, as I believe, this facility is, I call the remainder of the project a game changer!”

The Director of Aviation for Broward County Aviation Department outlined how a new security entrance will be constructed on the ticketing level of Terminal 1, and Concourses A, B, and C will be eventually be completely connected without having to re-enter through security as is now the case.

Following the comments from Mark Gale, the Broward County Mayor -Barbara Sharief declared June 1st, 2017, as Southwest Airlines Appreciation Day in the Florida County.

The Final speaker for the events of the morning was Southwest Airlines CEO, Gary Kelly. He outlined the growth of Southwest Airlines at FLL from its initial 5 flights a day to Tampa 21 years ago, to the current 63 daily departures to national and international destinations.

Current international destinations will increase on June 4th with new flights to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Belize City, Belize, Grand Cayman and Cancun, Mexico. Kelly did have another special announcement for new service as well.

“We have also published new flights that will be starting in November to San Jose, Costa Rica, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and beginning today, we are announcing service to Turks and Caicos. Turks and Caicos will become Southwest’s 11th country”. Kelly concluded his comments remarking “there is more to come for Southwest and South Florida, so stay tuned”.

In reply to Kelly’s comments, Mark Gale thanked Kelly and Southwest for their commitment to making FLL their primary international departure facility.