Two Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700s departed Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) Tuesday morning bound for the Caribbean, marking the first international flights in the 44-year history of the Dallas-based carrier.
The first Southwest 737 departing BWI headed for Aruba while the second 737 headed for Montego Bay, Jamaica. Southwest is beginning branded international flying to Aruba, Montego Bay and Nassau in the Bahamas and in August will add Mexican destinations Cancun and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos. All of the international destinations were previously operated to by AirTran Airways, which Southwest acquired in 2011. Southwest plans to completely retire the AirTran brand by the end of this year.
Speaking to analysts and reporters earlier this year during Southwest’s first-quarter earnings conference call, chairman, president and CEO Gary Kelly said international flying will be “a modest component of Southwest’s route system for the near future,” but could eventually make up 10%-15% of the carrier’s network. “We need to walk before we run, but we’re excited to get started” with international flights, he said.