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Southwest foresees routes to Europe

North America’s biggest low-cost carrier is looking at flights to Europe within the next few years.

North America’s biggest low-cost carrier could launch flights to Europe and Canada within the next few years, the airline’s chief executive, Gary Kelly, has said.

Speaking at Southwest Airlines’ annual shareholder meeting, Kelly described 2017 as the airline’s third-best year ever – and its 45th consecutive year of profits.

Because of this success, Kelly is enthusiastic about future expansion, saying that “we have as many as 50 additional opportunities to expand our route map in North America and parts of South America”.

Southwest currently flies to 100 destinations, 86 of which are domestic with 96% of the carrier’s traffic. The remaining 14 routes are international, making up just 4% of traffic.

Kelly also says that new routes to Europe are possible, with Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport – the airline’s second-biggest hub after Dallas – would be a “logical consideration” as a launching point, the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

Flights between Canada and Baltimore are also “absolutely something we would be interested in considering”.

It’s complicated
But such routes to Canada and Europe could be “complicated”, Kelly cautioned, when it comes to expanding to Europe the airline’s marketing efforts among its traditional market of leisure travellers.

More immediately, Southwest is concentrating on expansion to Hawaii, which is “subject to FAA approval and certification of extended over-water operations,” Kelly told shareholders.

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