Going South Of The Border: Southwest Announces First International Routes

Pack your bags for the sunny Caribbean (maybe not for a cruise, though) because bags are flying there for free now, along with passengers of course. Southwest Airlines just announced one of the most anticipated integration aspects of their 2011 merger with AirTran — international travel.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced Southwest would begin daily flights to Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas beginning on July 1. Flights can be reserved starting today on Southwest.com.

“Southwest workers have worked for 43 years to be an all-domestic carrier, so to make that shift in strategy is a huge effort,” Kelly said in the webcast announcement on Monday.

Southwest flights to the Caribbean will fly non-stop daily from Atlanta, Orlando and Baltimore, Kelly said. The new international routes will be eligible to be purchased using Rapid Rewards points.

International flights on AirTran will continue to Cancun, Los Cabos, and Mexico City, Mexico, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, as well as, the Caribbean until international routes are fully integrated with Southwest.

The integration of AirTran is expected to be completed by the end of 2014. At that time, all international flying will be converted to Southwest airlines, Kelley said.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to have international operations by July 1,” Kelly said of preparing reservation systems.

Southwest’s first foray into international travel won’t be its last. Officials said they will look to expand international travel outside the scope of AirTran’s current routes as early as 2015.

Now then, who else is humming this song? “Aruba, Jamaica, oooh I wanna take ya…”