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Southwest Airlines adds international flights — but not from Houston (yet)

Southwest Airlines airpline jet flying
Southwest Airlines announced Monday it is expanding service to include three international destinations, starting July 1. Photo by Dylan Ashe/Wikipedia

Southwest Airlines is introducing international flights to several Caribbean destinations, a first for the Dallas-based carrier. "Beginning July 1, 2014, Bags Fly Free beyond U.S. borders to Aruba, The Bahamas, and Jamaica," Southwest Airlines chairman Gary Kelly said at a press conference on Monday.

Non-stop daily service will commence from Atlanta to Aruba and Montego Bay, from Baltimore/Washington to Aruba, Nassau and (twice daily) Montego Bay, and Saturday-only service from Orlando to Aruba and Montego Bay.

International service to 96 destinations in four countries, currently serviced by AirTran Airways,will be taken over by Southwest by the end of this year.

International service to 96 destinations in four countries, currently serviced by AirTran Airways, will be taken over by Southwest by the end of this year. Southwest acquired AirTran in May, 2011, and intends to complete the full integration of AirTran's network into Southwest at that time. AirTran currently flies between San Antonio and Mexico City and between Austin and Cancun.

Houston and Dallas were noticeably missing from the announcement, but there's a reason for that. A new $156 million five-gate international terminal financed by Southwest is currently being built at William P. Hobby Airport. When it is completed in late 2015, the facility will be home to Southwest's foray into Latin America and the Caribbean from Houston.

Southwest also plans to expand domestic service from Dallas' Love Field in October. At that time, the provisions of the federal law, the Wright Amendment — which placed limitations on non-stop flights to destinations within Texas and in neighboring states — will be lifted. No word yet on what international flights may depart from Dallas, as the Boeing 737's that Southwest operates are limited to flying 3,115 nautical miles without refueling.

Executive vice president and CCO for Southwest Bob Jordan told the Houston Business Journal the only thing preventing the airline from adding more international flights is how far the Boeing 737's can fly.

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