This week Southwest Airlines kicked off new daily service from Los Angeles International to Liberia, Costa Rica – not major news in itself, but the latest reminder that what was once a strictly domestic airline has gradually developed an international network of significant proportions.
From zero international destinations in June 2014, Southwest now flies to 11 of them, all in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, with flights from a dozen domestic gateways. The airline started out by absorbing international routes from its acquisition of AirTran Airways and then added its own.
Destinations include Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos in Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Liberia and San Jose in Costa Rica; Nassau, Bahamas; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Aruba. (It also serves San Juan, but that’s not an international destination.) By June of 2015, Southwest was operating a Saturday schedule of more than 100 flights to those points.
The biggest bump in Southwest’s international service came last fall, when the airline added flights from Houston Hobby to all four of the airports it serves in Mexico and to both Costa Rican cities, as well as Montego Bay, Jamaica and seasonal flights to Aruba and San Juan. That big increase was made possible by Hobby’s opening of a new international concourse for Southwest. The airline now has a dedicated international section on its website.
If Southwest has its way, it will soon add another big destination to its growing international route map. The company has applied to three points in Cuba from Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. But it has lots of competition from other big U.S. airlines eager to crack the Cuba market.
In other news – in case you haven’t already noticed – Southwest last month quietly raised the fee for its Early Bird Check-In option from $12.50 to $15.
Have you flown Southwest lately? How’d that go for you? Would you fly Southwest south of the border? Please leave your comments below.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights