According to Flightglobal.com, Southwest Airlines has recently announced plans to expand the discount airline’s offerings at Fort Lauderdale Airport. The planned expansion will involve a new international concourse at the airport in Terminal 1, with Southwest offering several new routes to several Caribbean-focused destinations. Southwest is set to operate three of the new concourse’s five gates.
Southwest is currently the 3rd largest carrier at the South Florida airport with 5.1 million passengers in 2016, behind JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines. The new concourse will be paid for by Southwest, which plans to capitalize on the new offerings to boost domestic service. It currently provides service to six international locations, and service will be added to Cancun, Belize City, Montego Bay, and Grand Cayman in the coming days. Provinciales, in Turks and Caicos, will receive Southwest flights beginning in November. Southwest anticipates adding approximately 10 flights annually in the coming years, and the additional locations is expected to boost the viability of the airline’s domestic network by making Southwest a more significant player in the growing Caribbean and Latin American market.
Significantly, the move also comes as Southwest has announced important plans to expand existing infrastructure plans at Fort Lauderdale airport. Connections between the international concourses and domestic terminals will be an important part of handling the increased passenger load, and making such connections available in a way that avoids placing additional burdens on the security infrastructure of the airport will help determine the overall success of the effort. Current efforts to link Concourses B and C inside security are planned, and Southwest has indicated that they eventually intend for all existing terminals to be linked and not require multiple trips through airport security.
The moves represent a significant statement of intent by Southwest, particularly as discount airlines have increasingly battled over the growing South Florida market. Southwest’s moves, for one, seem to suggest that an expanded set of international destinations will be both attractive destinations in their own right while also boosting the options available to customers more familiar with their domestic network.