Southwest Airlines Chairman, President and CEO Gary Kelly said the airline is “seriously considering” operating international flights soon and also remains interested in acquiring troubled assets from rival carriers following its failed bid to purchase Frontier Airlines.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kelly said there are plenty of markets to which SWA still can expand (it currently serves 67). “If you’re just talking about the domestic US, I think there are a dozen [potential expansion cities],” he said. “If you add international markets, there are dozens. . .The 737 can do Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean. . .We’re seriously considering that.
SWA previously announced its intention to give customers access to Canada and Mexico via codesharing; a partnership with WestJet was supposed to begin this year but has been delayed, likely until late 2010.
Regarding Frontier, Kelly likened SWA’s losing out to Republic Airways Holdings to the world’s top golfer recently losing the PGA Championship. “Even Tiger Woods doesn’t win every tournament,” he told the newspaper. “We’ll be back in the game for the next tournament. It’s a matter of being opportunistic. Any time you’ve got a competitor failing in bankruptcy, that presents an opportunity.”
He said Southwest could grow 10% via an acquisition, as would have been the case with Frontier, but much larger growth would be “a huge risk” not worth taking. He added that acquiring regional airlines is “not our vision going forward.”