Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Southwest eyes increasing foreign points of sale

Southwest Airlines will focus on increasing foreign points of sale as it expands its international network.

Passengers to the Dallas-based carrier’s international destinations are mainly leisure travelers from the US. However, Southwest has seen more business travel, particularly on its Mexican routes, Southwest chief revenue officer Andrew Watterson told ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily at the Routes Americas conference.

Southwest’s current reservations system does not allow foreign currency sales, but the Amadeus-based reservations system it is switching to on May 9 will. Now, Southwest sees foreign ticket sales in Mexico City; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Aruba, but Watterson said the new reservations system should accelerate this. “We’re working on building [brand] awareness, with community outreach and advertising,” Watterson said.

As it expands in international markets, Southwest has to educate passengers on some of the more unique aspects of its product. Southwest norms, including boarding in groups and not having assigned seating, are unusual in many of the Caribbean and Central American markets the carrier serves. “Our passengers know that we aren’t providing a lie-flat experience,” Watterson said. “By and large they want a ‘proper’ coach product, and that’s what we give them.”

The carrier is launching the Fort Lauderdale-Grand Cayman route on June 4. Watterson said Southwest is continuing to evaluate other near-international destinations.

Southwest is adding 3.5% more capacity this year, but the growth will be diffused over the entire network. This is a change from the last few years, such as 2014, when the carrier launched international flights and vastly expanded its operations at Dallas Love Field. “If I had to say any region, I’d say we’re adding a little more capacity in the west of the country than in the east,” he said.

(Madhu Unnikrishnan - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

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