Southwest Airlines To Add Bahamas As Destination?

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Southwest Airlines may be adding The Bahamas to its list of travel destinations as the pending$1.42 billion purchase of Air Tran Airways may bring the low-fare carrier to Bahamian runways.

Southwest, one of the leading air carriers in the U.S., announced that it reached a definitive agreement with Air Tran to acquire the company, meaning that Southwest would have leverage to integrate the current markets that Air Tran currently serves. Acting Director General at the Ministry of Tourism David Johnson toldGuardian Businessthat he hopes Southwest has the same level of interest the ministry has in working together to provide new routes for travelers.

"Southwest brings one of the most smartest, and in terms of financially sound carriers, they are perhaps the leading one in the U.S. today,"Johnson said."We anticipate that they value the Air Tran routes--in which we are one--and we will work very closely with them in terms of initiating conversation with them very shortly in regards to how they might enhance their service to The Bahamas."

Johnson also said he spoke with officials from Southwest at a conference last week, but no conversations were held regarding the airline's agreement with Air Tran, with Johnson calling it"perhaps the best kept secret in the industry."

Chairman, President and CEO of Southwest Airlines Gary Kelly said the new acquisition"provides access to key near-international leisure markets in the Caribbean."A spokesperson from the airline toldGuardian Businessthe company isn't in a position to confirm The Bahamas as a destination because the deal is still awaiting final approval from regulators. However, Guardian Business has learned that Southwest wants to launch independent international service and the customer base that Air Tran currently serves will give them an opportunity to tap those markets. Air Tran offers two direct flights from Nassau to the United States and serves four other countries in the region. Southwest doesn't offer services to those destinations, but Kelly said the airline will operate those routes and measure their profitability.

However, Johnson said he will continue to communicate with Southwest representatives.

"We will continue to our dialogue to see how we can improve Southwest's capacity into The Bahamas and certainly work closely with them to build a new service,"he said.

Source: The Nassau Guardian