Two years after starting its international flights, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said the Dallas-based airline’s future expansion lies beyond the 48-states.
“Five years from now I’d love for Southwest to be in Hawaii, serving Canada, more destinations in the Caribbean and no doubt we’ll have more flights into Mexico,” said Kelly on Monday.
He added that the 737 MAX, a more fuel efficient model of Boeing’s most popular commercial aircraft, will open up even more destinations to Southwest.
“I think the  MAX in particular is a better airplane from what we have today for Hawaii but it definitely gives us hundreds of miles of additional range,” explained Kelly.
He said that new aircraft could even make some South American destinations feasible including Bogota, Colombia.
“We do have the reach into South America for roughly a half-dozen cities and they’re definitely on our list as well,” Kelly added.
The CEO made the comments during a break from Halloween festivities at the corporate headquarters on Monday morning.
In two weeks, on November 13, Southwest begins daily passenger service to Varodero, Cuba from Fort Lauderdale. A month later, on December 12, Southwest inaugurates flights to Havana from there, as well.
“What is an even bigger opportunity in the near term is the new bi-lateral treaty between the United States and Mexico,” he added.
The agreement eliminates caps on the number of daily flights between Mexico and the United States. Southwest said it already plans to add flights to Mexico from Los Angeles.
“We’re adding a modest number of flights – about three or four flights from LAX to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun," the CEO said. "But over time we’ll be able to add more so that’s a really exciting opportunity."
But Kelly reiterated comments made during an earnings conference call last week about the company slowing its growth.
“We’re not going to be cutting back. We’ll continue to grow," he said. "What we need to be mindful of is the pace of our growth. So we’ll be adding flights domestically and of course expansion for us is more literally beyond the 48 states.
"Next year we’ll be growing three-and-a-half percent to four percent total and roughly two percent would be domestic."