Las Vegas residents who are customers of the busiest commercial air carrier at McCarran International Airport — Dallas-based Southwest Airlines — will someday fly the airline to Mexico, Central America and possibly South America.
Executive Vice President Robert Jordan, the airline’s chief commercial officer and president of Southwest’s AirTran Airways subsidiary, was in Las Vegas to speak at the World Routes aviation conference on the Southwest-AirTran merger that is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
The AirTran acquisition has opened the door for Southwest, which has more than 200 daily flights to and from McCarran, to fly internationally since AirTran already had routes to the Caribbean. Once the transition is completed next year, all AirTran routes will become Southwest flights.
In an interview with VEGAS INC, Jordan said the centerpiece of Southwest’s international product would be at Houston’s Hobby Airport, where Southwest last month broke ground on a new international terminal. But as Southwest takes delivery of the next generation of Boeing 737 jets in 2017, it will be poised to offer nonstop flights from any Southwest city and Las Vegas, as the second busiest Southwest station, would be high on the priority list.
“The international opportunities are just huge for us,” Jordan said.
AirTran already flies to six countries and, since Southwest’s acquisition, has added cities, most notably Mexico City and Cabo San Lucas.
“We have our eyes set on a number of cities (in Mexico, Central and South America), but I can’t tell you what they are just yet,” Jordan said.
World Routes 2013 wraps up today at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The highlight of the conference is one-on-one meetings between airlines and airports and visitor and convention bureaus.
While most of Las Vegas’ focus at Routes has been on attracting Asian and South American air carriers for overseas nonstop flights, the prospect of Southwest flying routes south of the border is intriguing to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which lists Mexico as its second-largest foreign market.
“There are a lot of possibilities that make sense and Vegas would be one of those,” Jordan said.
Jordan said Southwest is in the process of developing a new reservations system that would be able to process transactions that involve foreign currency conversions. That’s one of the last roadblocks for the airline to start international flights. Southwest would also have to have planes equipped for flights over water to reach Caribbean destinations.
If Southwest were to fly international routes from Las Vegas, planes would likely arrive at Terminal 3 so that passengers could go directly to U.S. Customs. Planes would then taxi to the B and C gates for departures, a procedure WestJet has used in Las Vegas on its Canadian routes and that Southwest uses in Atlanta.