MIAMI — Southwest Airlines announced its long expected first international routes on Monday at a press conference in Dallas.
Beginning July 1, 2014, Southwest will begin service from Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, and Orlando to three cities in the Caribbean.
Atlanta will serve Aruba and Montego Bay daily, while Orlando will serve the same cities but with Aruba once weekly on Saturday. Long-time hub Baltimore/Washington BWI will service Aruba and Nassau daily, and Montego Bay twice daily. All of the new routes are currently served by AirTran, and thus are only switching to Southwest aircraft. The destinations are available for sale today.
During the conference Southwest officials initially deflected questions about adding fresh international destinations that were not current AirTran routes. Officials noted that any cities within reach of the Boeing 737 would be in play, later suggesting that destinations including northern South America are being considered. Regarding timing, CEO Gary Kelly speculated that 2015 could be the first year to see new cities added to the international network that are not presently served by AirTran.
The carrier also stated that it does not intend to change its present level of customer service on board the flights. International flights typically enjoy a higher level of product and service, though these short to mid-range flights are unlikely to need it.
Kelly also said that the Boeing 737 will continue to remain the sole aircraft type in the fleet, though Kelly did not rule out the possibility of larger aircraft down the road. Southwest currently operates 587 of the airplane, according to Airfleets.net, and has 180 737MAX airplanes (both -7, and -8) on order.
The carrier unleashed a new reservation system, Amadeus, to handle the new operations. It is the third reservation system now in use at the carrier following its merger with AirTran in 2011.