Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 (24888/1942) N352SW "Lone Star One" climbs from Rwy 7L at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on December 16, 2011 during east traffic operations.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
Southwest Airlines is planning to open a five-gate international facility at Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL/KFLL) in Florida as it grows its beyond-US network.
On the sidelines of the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas this week, Southwest SVP-network and revenue management Andrew Watterson told ATW sister publication Aviation Daily that the Dallas-based airline’s international routes were “maturing nicely, in line with expectations.”
Southwest transitioned to becoming an international carrier after its acquisition-merger of AirTran Airways, a US carrier with an international network focused mostly on Mexico and the Caribbean.
Southwest slowly dropped the AirTran brand and began transferring the Southwest name to those international routes in 2014. It also created a new international terminal at Houston Hobby Airport(HOU/KHOU), which will open later this year with five gates and become Southwest’s first international facility.
Flights will operate to the Caribbean, Mexico and northern South America destinations.
The Fort Lauderdale facility will open in the second quarter- to mid-2017, Watterson said, and, like Hobby, have five gates dedicated to international routes. “That will give us the potential for more new dots,” he said, referring to CEO Gary Kelly’s description of potential new international city destinations.
“We’re learning about the performance and seasonality of the new routes. In international, the high seasons tend to be higher and the low seasons are lower than in domestic and that’s something you don’t know until you operate international routes,” Watterson said.
He added that airline is also working to increase brand awareness of the Southwest name in the international cities is now serves.
“For foreign points of sale we’ve started up advertising and publicity campaigns. It’s a long-term project. We have to be methodical about it. As we mature the current routes, [the marketing campaign] pays dividends and people start to buy us,” he said.
“Building a brand is a long-term proposition. We’ve already started on the back of our current service, which is heavy on US point of sale. We have started on the other side, and expect that to bear fruit”
(Madhu Unnikrishnan - ATWOnline News)