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Southwest Airlines, the carrier that promotes itself in its current and controversial advertising campaign as “America’s largest domestic airline,” is about to get undomesticated.
Last month, Southwest kicked off daily service from Orlando and Tampa to San Juan, its first flights outside the continental U.S. These flights supplement subsidiary AirTran’s existing service from Baltimore/Washington, Atlanta, and Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood to San Juan.
But, this is relatively small stuff compared with Southwest’s grandiose plans as 2014 and 2015 would mark a new era for the airline. That’s when Southwest plans to launch truly international flights, although destinations, schedules and other details have not been announced.
However, Southwest is expected to at least start flying to current AirTran destinations, including Bermuda, Cabo, Montego Bay, Nassau/Paradise Island, Ontario and Punta Cana.
A few things have to happen before passengers start packing their passports for global flying on Southwest.
Airline technology company Amadeus and its Altea reservations system has been signed up to create an international reservations system for Southwest, which currently doesn’t have one.
First, Amadeus, which just opened an IT office in Dallas, could eventually take over the domestic portion of Southwest’s reservation from Sabre, as well.
Second, in a move to make its international visions a reality, Southwest says it is footing the $156 million design and construction bill to build “five gates and an international processing facility at Houston Hobby Airport,” which likely would be a locus for international operations.
This is all good news for international travel because Southwest tends to inject new competition when its planes and ambitions land in new destinations.