Big Changes Coming at Southwest

These are exciting days at Southwest Airlines. Southwest is slowly absorbing former AirTran airports, aircraft, and people. New construction projects are changing the look of our home airport (Dallas Love) and our headquarters. And we are preparing to begin flights outside the continental U.S. Here are a few of the highlights:

AirTran Integration

The process of combining our two airlines will last through 2015, but we’ve already made significant progress. We have taken over AirTran’s operations in Seattle, Canton/Akron, Des Moines, and Dayton, and we take over its Key West service this coming Sunday. We’ve converted at least 10 AirTran 737s into Southwest configuration and paint scheme along with crews to work them. Coming this spring, we will take over AirTran’s service to Branson, Wichita, Charlotte, Flint, Rochester, and Portland, ME. Significantly for me, the AirTran dispatch office will move from Orlando to our headquarters building in June, although technically we will remain two separate groups for 2-3 more years with the AirTran dispatchers gradually converting to Southwest as we convert more planes and flights. Three of them are already in training to “jump the fence” and join our office. Plus we will finally start code sharing with AirTran next year, meaning you can buy a ticket from a Southwest airport to an AirTran-only airport to give you more options.

Going Farther

We just received approval from the FAA to operate flights outside the continental U.S. for the first time in our history, a huge milestone that will give us numerous new SWA destinations in the coming years. Yesterday we announced our first such destination: San Juan, Puerto Rico. Service begins in April from Orlando and Tampa, with more airports to follow. We are VERY excited about these new opportunities! Puerto Rico is particularly interesting because it’s a prime starting port for amazing cruises to the Southern Caribbean. I am hopeful that we’ll add a Houston-San Juan nonstop to make it easy for us Dallasites to get there. Eventually we will take over all of AirTran’s international operations including flights to Cancun, Mexico City, Nassau, Punta Cana, Cabo San Lucas, Montego Bay, and Bermuda. Plus I’m sure that eventually we will add some new destinations of our own. (aloha, y’all!)

Changes in Dallas

First of all, as you might already know, the City of Dallas and Southwest are working together to build a beautiful new terminal at Love Field. Twelve of the gates are scheduled to open in April 2013 along with many of the new concessions. The remaining eight gates will open later. If you’re at Love anytime soon, look out the windows to see the new terminal.

Second, the main restrictions of the Wright Amendment will expire in October 2014, now less than two years away! At that time, we will be able to fly nonstop from Love to pretty much any airport we want within the continental U.S. (still no international flights), providing our Customers (and Employees!) a wealth of new flight options. I’m hoping for nonstops to Orlando, Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Atlanta…but it’s not up to me.

Finally, construction has begun on a new building at SWA headquarters that will house our 24/7 workgroups, including Dispatch. It will be a hardened facility to keep us safe during severe weather, and it will provide plenty of space and a new design to help us operate as safely and effectively as possible both now and far into the future. I can’t wait to see our new home when it opens late next year or early 2014.

I’ve worked at Southwest for over 11 years now. I still love it here, and I am grateful to be a small part of this great company.

Disclaimer: I am not an official Southwest spokesperson, and all opinions expressed on this website are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Southwest Airlines, its Board of Directors, or other Employees.