After significant industry speculation, Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) announced Monday that it is ready to unveil its first international routes that will serve Aruba, Montego Bay, and Nassau in the Bahamas. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly shared the news in a Monday morning press conference, and said via Seeking Alpha, “Beginning July 1, 2014, bags fly free beyond U.S. borders to Aruba, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. As our customers seamlessly click through southwest.com to make these historic bookings today, our people celebrate the final lap in the journey to make possible our international future.”
Customers are now able to secure seats on the first-ever scheduled international flights flown by Southwest Airlines, and according to PR Newswire via Seeking Alpha, beginning in July, Southwest will operate daily, nonstop flights between Atlanta and Aruba, and Montego Bay; Baltimore/Washington and Aruba, Nassau, and Montego Bay; and Orlanda and Aruba, Montego Bay.
According to the Dallas, Texas-based carrier, in the first phase of its international conversion plan, subsidiary AirTran Airways will continue service between Atlanta and Nassau, between Chicago Midway and Montego Bay, as well as flights to/from Cancun, Los Cabos, and Mexico City, Mexico, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republican. By the end of 2014, however, Southwest plans to extend its service to the remaining four international destinations on its network route map of 96 destinations in six countries. Southwest and AirTran’s schedules are now open for booking through August 8, 2014.
Industry sources expected Southwest to unveil its international routes after it announced a press conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m., because although the company has waded into the international market through its wholly owned subsidiary AirTran, before Monday morning, Southwest had yet to announce its plan to fly its own planes to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
According to USA Today, Southwest only offered those options through AirTrain — which it merged with in 2010 — because it was still working though upgrades that would allow it to handle all international reservations and eventually fold all of the company’s flight operations into one. The absorption of AirTran is still a work in progress, but now it is at least evident that the company’s international conversion plan is officially under way. New technologies, training, and employee compliance were necessary for the international launch, and it seems as though all of Southwest’s efforts are finally coming to fruition.