Posted November 12, 2008 by Zak Patten
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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