Southwest to make first international flights as it takes over AirTran routes

Trips from BWI to Aruba, Jamaica, Bahamas to change banners starting July 1

January 27, 2014|By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

Southwest Airlines will make its first international flights July 1, including flights between Baltimore and Aruba, the Bahamas and Jamaica, as the carrier takes over routes flown by subsidiary AirTran Airways.

Daily flights will operate between Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Aruba and Nassau, Bahamas. The airline will operate twice-daily flights between BWI and Montego Bay, Jamaica. AirTran currently flies on those routes.

Flights to those Caribbean locations also will be scheduled from Atlanta and Orlando, Fla.

"We are in the process of converting existing AirTran destinations with Southwest products," said Dan Landson, a Southwest spokesman. "This is the first in a series of announcements."

By the end of 2014, Southwest plans to add service to four more international airports to its route maps, destinations in which AirTran already operates: Cancun, Los Cabos and Mexico City, Mexico, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

AirTran currently offers direct flights from Baltimore to Cancun. Together, the two carriers serve 70 percent of BWI passengers.

Southwest acquired AirTran in May 2011 in a deal it valued at $3.2 billion.

BWI's top executive welcomed the changes.

"This is an important first step as Southwest Airlines officially makes the move to the international market," said Paul J. Wiedefeld, the airport's CEO, in a statement. "The significant move by Southwest is important for BWI Marshall and our customers."

In addition to AirTran's international routes, BWI's international schedule includes flights to London via British Airways and to Toronto via Air Canada. During the summer, Condor offers flights from BWI to Frankfurt, Germany.

BWI's international traffic grew 21 percent in 2012, to about 704,000 of 22.7 million passengers. For the 12 months ending in November, the most recent month for which data are available, international traffic rose 20 percent, Dean said.

Southwest's integration with AirTran also could affect domestic flight schedules at BWI. Southwest is gradually taking over AirTran's routes within the United States, Landson said.

He could not say how that might affect the number of flights being offered.

"With every new schedule, there's some tweaking. It depends on demand and supply," he said. "We want to be able to provide where the demand is."

sdance@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ssdance

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