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Southwest coming to The Bahamas?

The chief executive of Southwest Airlines is indicating that the low-cost carrier is planning to launch flights into The Bahamas.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Southwest’s Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly, while explaining why Southwest’s frequent-flier program had to be changed, said the airline wanted to attract more business travelers. Kelly noted that a new program is needed because of the potential of new long-haul destinations like Hawaii and Alaska, as well as international destinations like The Bahamas.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace has hinted that The Bahamas was expected to add a few new carriers to its list, though he would not divulge any specifics. Having Southwest fly into the country would indeed offer the nation’s tourism product great advantage in terms of making the cost to get here more affordable.

Last year Southwest announced that it reached a definitive agreement with Air Tran Airways, another low-cost air carrier in the U.S., to purchase it for$1.42 billion. This means that Southwest would have leverage to integrate the current markets that Air Tran currently serves. Air Tran currently offers two direct flights from Nassau to the United States and serves four other countries in the region. Acting Director General at the Ministry of Tourism David Johnson toldGuardian Businessrecently that he hopes Southwest has the same level of interest the ministry has in working together to provide new routes for travelers.

“Southwest(is)one of the most smartest(airlines), and in terms of financially sound carriers, they are perhaps the leading one in the U.S. today,”Johnson said then.”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.”

At that time, Johnson said he spoke with officials from Southwest, but no conversations were held regarding the airline’s agreement with Air Tran, which Johnson called”perhaps the best kept secret in the industry.”

Guardian Business’attempts to reach Johnson yesterday for comment were unsuccessful.

Kelly said previously that the new acquisition”provides access to key near-international leisure markets in the Caribbean.”A spokesperson from the airline also toldGuardian Businessrecently that the company isn’t in a position to confirm The Bahamas as a destination, because the deal is still awaiting final approval from regulators.

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