Southwest Airlines is one of the most successful and popular low-cost airlines in the United States. It flies more than 4,000 flights a day to over 100 destinations in the country and abroad. But why Southwest Airlines does not fly to Europe? What are the factors that prevent Southwest Airlines from expanding across the Atlantic?
Southwest’s fleet and business model: The main barriers
One of the main factors that prevent Southwest Airlines from flying to Europe is its fleet and business model. Southwest Airlines operates a single fleet type of Boeing 737s, which are narrow-body aircraft that are not suitable for long-haul flights. Southwest Airlines has more than 700 Boeing 737s, including the 737-700, the 737-800, and the 737 MAX 8. The 737-700 has the longest range of the three, at 6,370 km, which is not enough to reach most of Europe from the US. The 737 MAX 8 has a slightly shorter range, at 6,570 km, but it could theoretically reach some western European destinations from the northeastern US. However, the 737 MAX 8 is currently grounded worldwide due to safety issues, and it is unclear when it will resume service.
Southwest Airlines’s business model is also based on point-to-point flights, rather than hub-and-spoke flights. This means that Southwest Airlines flies directly from one city to another, without connecting passengers through a central hub. This allows Southwest Airlines to offer low fares, high frequency, and fast turnaround times. However, this also limits Southwest Airlines’s ability to serve long-haul markets, where demand may be lower and competition may be higher. Southwest Airlines would need to establish new hubs or partnerships in Europe to offer more destinations and connections to its customers.
Southwest’s potential plans and partners: The possible solutions
Despite these barriers, Southwest Airlines has not ruled out the possibility of flying to Europe in the future. In fact, Southwest Airlines has indicated that it could launch flights to Europe and Canada as early as 2021. Southwest Airlines’s CEO, Gary Kelly, has said that Baltimore Washington International Airport would be a “logical consideration” as a launching point for transatlantic flights. The Southwest Airlines’s Chief Revenue Officer, Andrew Watterson, has also said that Southwest Airlines is open to international codeshares, which would allow Southwest Airlines to partner with another airline that flies to Europe.
Southwest Airlines has codeshared with other airlines in the past, such as ATA Airlines, WestJet, Volaris, and AirTran. It has also partnered with Icelandair, which offers flights to Europe from several US cities. Southwest Airlines could potentially codeshare with Icelandair or another European carrier, such as Norwegian, Ryanair, or EasyJet, to offer more options and lower fares to its customers. Southwest Airlines could also consider buying or leasing other aircraft types, such as the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A321LR, which are more suitable for long-haul flights.
Conclusion: The future of Southwest Airlines in Europe
Southwest Airlines has a remarkable track record of growth and profitability in the US market. It has also expanded to other regions, such as Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. However, Southwest Airlines has not yet ventured into Europe, which is a large and competitive market. Southwest Airlines faces some challenges, such as its fleet and business model, that limit its ability to fly to Europe. However, Southwest Airlines also has some opportunities, such as codeshares and new aircraft, that could enable it to fly to Europe. Southwest Airlines may eventually launch flights to Europe, but it will take some time and strategy to do so.