Southwest Airlines’ plans to grow in to the Hawaiian islands are no secret, but they’re also not the only destinations further afield the company is considering. In today’s annual meeting CEO Gary Kelly spoke briefly about some of those plans.
Our goal remains to be selling Hawaii flights by year end, with specific dates, flights and fares coming soon. Flying is subject to FAA approval and certification of ETOPS. That work is continuing and is on schedule. Hawaii expansion will be a major focus for Southwest in 2019 as far as our fleet growth is concerned.
The carrier flies to only 14 international destinations today and wants to see that number grow. To that end Kelly believes there are “as many as 50 additional opportunities to expand our route map in North American and parts of South America….It may take us 25 years but it is wonderful to have those opportunities to grow.”
Those were the only details included in the public webcast of the meeting but during a follow-on Q&A session with media Kelly got down into the details. The company has big plans ahead.
Adding Canadian destinations is a very real likelihood for Southwest, though it acknowledges this won’t come immediately.
— Ghim-Lay Yeo (@ghimlay) May 16, 2018
The carrier still needs to grow its market and brand awareness north of the border to generate sufficient local demand. It also needs to adapt its sales system to support foreign currency transactions. The latter should be easier on the Amadeus Altea PSS platform but it still takes some effort to make it happen.
Read More: Southwest readies a price war to Hawaii
Canada represents only a handful of the 50ish destinations the carrier is considering. Some Caribbean destinations could be added as US dollar sales though many other South America options would require the foreign currency sales solution.
No Oceans, though
With the 25-year horizon there’s a pretty good chance it is more than 50 destinations in total that the company might add. But, at least for now, crossing the Atlantic Ocean is not part of that plan. Kelly hinted at codeshare or other partnerships to feed traffic across the Pond but expects to steer clear of that market for now. Given the flood of LCC competition fighting for market share and Southwest’s nascent ETOPS program that’s probably a smart choice.
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