Is Southwest Airlines Going Global?

Posted November 12, 2008 by Zak Patten

Airfaresouthwestfrontofpl Southwest Airlines has come a long way in the 40 years since it was first sketched out on a paper napkin as a carrier to serve the Texan triangle of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Its commercials compete with Budweiser for face time with America's football fans. And just about everyone knows someone who's gotten some super-cheap flight home for the holidays, even if it meant touching down at an airport that's not exactly "in" that person's hometown.

But what's most amazing about this household-name airline is that Southwest has never needed a passport for any of its travels. Sticking to the Lower 48 has undoubtedly paid off as a business plan thus far, but it looks like the LUV airline may be getting restless. As evidence I would cite the fact that Southwest has just inked a deal with Volaris, a low-cost Mexican carrier, to provide codeshare service south of the border.

I'm just wondering what will happen once Southwest tastes real Mexican cooking or lies on a sandy Acapulco beach. Will other "foreign relations" be far off? Which of course leads to the next thought: Who would Southwest hook up with? My first bet is on Ryanair, which is evidently considering transatlantic service to complement its European domination. Ryanair, with its ultra-cheap reputation and tendency to charge extra for every little thing, makes Southwest look like the Armani of airlines. But I digress. For flights to Australia, could that country's Virgin Blue be a possible mate? I think it a better match than Qantas, but the real struggle would be over who would spring for the fuel, since I'm quite sure Southwest isn't interested in picking up the tab on a 15-hour flight to Sydney, and I dare say Virgin Blue feels the same way.

Southwest and its potential partners might even someday create an alliance comprised of just low-cost carriers, which would really shake up the flying experience. If you thought the glamour days of air travel went out with Pan Am in the 1970s, welcome to the new no-frills flight. Forget meal service—you'd be lucky to find some Chex Mix under your seat on one of these planes. And baggage fees? Oh man, there'd be some serious carry-on cramming on a Ryanair trip from Boston to London. So no, it probably won't be much to write home about. But that's not why you'll buy a ticket. You'll pony up your $99 and get on that flight to Paris because it'll cost you ninety-nine dollars. In a time of capacity cuts and high fares, I'll take the cheap flight, thanks.

My only question is how big a napkin I need to sketch out an international route map for a new global Southwest and its friends. Would you buy a ticket on a long-haul international flight offered by one of these airlines? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

(Photo: Southwest Airlines)

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Reader Comments

Having flown JetStar (Qantas' low cost subsidiary, created to compete with Virgin Blue) on a 4 hour flight to NZ, given the funds I would not fly long haul on an LCC. They make a lot of sense on shorter trips, but no AVOD on JetStar to Osaka or Hawaii would not be a great experience.

V Australia, a Virgin Subsidiary, is starting flights into LA next month.

Posted on November 19, 2008 at 05:34 PM by Jordan

Interesting comment, Jordan. I'm curious to see if other travelers feel the way you do about avoiding long-haul flights on LCCs. Thanks for your input!

Posted on November 20, 2008 at 09:17 AM by Zak

I would def fly for those kind of deals. Small discomfort thrown out the window i am a tall person and have always lived with my knees in the back of the seat in front of me. I would gladly take this situation for a super low air fare to anywhere in the world. Look at the alternative not traveling. Once I get to my destination however I would pamper myself a little more you should not have to spend more getting there than you do when you are there.

Posted on December 02, 2008 at 01:01 AM by Jon

Having been in the airline business for the past 40+ years I can tell you that Southwest is poised to easily break into the international border markets in Mexico and Canada.

First, Southwest's business model includes great success in non-stop flights of short hops to 2000+ miles. Their prices are easy to read, sensible, fair and offer simplicity. Their Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program is as simple as their pricing scheme.
Second, they know how to treat a passenger with respect, the majors cant do that for some reason.

Third, for the most part Southwest has a happy workforce that works smoothly. The majors rely on fear with condescending and archaic watchdog techniques.

Fourth, they give you value for your money with no tricks. The majors play tricks trying to spin their excess inventory off to third parties at net rates.

Fifth, they virtually have no fees. The majors have fees for everything short of using the restroom. Including preferred coach seating fees, baggage fees, snack fees and a ton of other fees.

Sixth, Southwest knows how to run a modern airline. The majors are so thick with management and supervisory layers all looking over each others shoulder, they cant function.

Seventh, food service on most airlines is abysmal, non-existent and they want money. They want money for everything short of toilet tissue. The protective paper toilet seat covers no longer exist, magazines of choice are gone, paper hand towels are postage stamp size and on and on.

So from the perspective of a guy that started emptying lav's with a major and ending up as a CFO and Vice-Chair with tons of jobs in between, from my perspective Southwest wins hands down everywhere you turn.

Would my former BIG 5 airline want to chop my parts off for extolling the virtues of Southwest? Probably. But if they would develop anything close to their model and keep it Southwest "pure" they could win.Sadly they don't know how and never will.

So, here my wife and I are still using tons of revenue and employee passes on Southwest. Happy, human, generous, eager to please is hard to beat. The majors don't get it and never will.

Posted on December 10, 2008 at 01:22 PM by SouthwestCanWinAnythingTheyWant

Southwest already operates TransContinental US flights from 6 or more cities with advanced 737-G and newer equipment.

This is the same aircraft "larger" airlines are using to travel transcon.

What Southwest is missing is FEES:
Hope this table works,if it does not here a couple of the URLs to compare.

Posted on December 10, 2008 at 02:28 PM by SouthwestCanWinAnythingTheyWant

The gentleman that spoke about SouthWest, he gave some honest answer. USAirways was my favorite airline, now they are at the bottom of my list and SouthWest is #1. I would be elated if they would have transatlantic and caribbean flights. I would say SouthWest is the best and i hope they keep it up and at the same time make sure they keep up with maintenance, as they would lead the travel industry if they open more market with the same business dealings.
They have good lawyers working for them the other airlines i think their lawyers who are handling their legal affairs and accountants are eventually going to put them out of business.

Posted on December 10, 2008 at 05:05 PM by Michele C

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