Southwest Airlines opens Fort Lauderdale international gateway and restores service (no joke) on Orlando-Fort Lauderdale route

fllexpansioWith renovations to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s Terminal One and Concourse A nearing completion, Southwest Airlines loaded into its summer schedule on Thursday several new international destinations from the airport.

The carrier also announced restoration of its dormant Orlando-Fort Lauderdale service and exciting new routes out of Tampa/St Pete, Panama City and Pensacola.

Southwest will add service from Fort Lauderdale to Cancun (a route already served by JetBlue and Spirit), Montego Bay (also a route already served by JetBlue and Spirit) as well as Belize City. The airline has also applied to serve Grand Cayman nonstop beginning in the summer.

In theory to feed the new operation which also includes existing service to three Cuban cities, Nassau and San Juan, Southwest is restoring Orlando-Fort Lauderdale flights with five daily nonstops. This to me makes zero sense unless it is a preemptive strike against All Aboard Florida (which it might be). Southwest long offered nearly hourly service on the Orlando-Fort Lauderdale route, but terminated it completely in early 2012 thanks to fuel prices and diminishing loads. The carrier is also adding Fort Lauderdale nonstop service to Washington’s Dulles Airport now giving the airline nonstop service to all three major airports in the Baltimore/Washington area from Fort Lauderdale.

Southwest’s international flying from Fort Lauderdale is within the vicinity of the Caribbean (and Florida), featuring mostly leisure destinations. Rumors that Southwest would target a JetBlue market or two in South America (which rely more on ethnic traffic and business contracts) from Fort Lauderdale proved ill-founded but still could happen down the road. JetBlue serves five South American cities nonstop from Fort Lauderdale. Spirit Airlines also serves five South American destinations nonstop from Fort Lauderdale.

In addition, the airline added service from Tampa to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, an under-served route pair where Southwest who has the largest presence at Tampa Int’l should do well. Southwest also will add weekly service from Austin to Panama City and from Denver to Pensacola during the summer months, giving Northwest Florida a fist-ever nonstop link to the Rocky Mountains.

Southwest has gradually been pulling away from small markets and will discontinue service to Dayton and Akron/Canton Ohio with this schedule release. However, Pensacola and Panama City, two smaller Florida markets remain viable for the airline.

This schedule extension was for summer 2017. The winter schedule is which corresponds with the delivery of new 737 MAX aircraft should see even more additions for the state of Florida.


  1. […] Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport probably has the smallest footprint for an airport that carries lots of international passengers in the United States. Above I have cited the similar small size of New York-LaGuardia and Washington-National. Neither of those airports carry much international traffic and have limited transcontinental service. FLL on the other hand actually handles more international passengers on a daily basis than the much larger Orlando International Airport and more than twice as many as Tampa International Airport does. Again, FLL might represent a soft target especially as international traffic grows further with the opening of five new gates and a customs facility for the exclusive use of Southwest Airline… […]


  2. […] Airlines announced new service from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport on January 5 to multiple …. It’s the latest expansion for Southwest to destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean. […]


  3. […] island and from Tampa to Havana. Southwest has struggled in the market much like everyone else but have long-term plans for an international hub in Fort Lauderdale and as one of the world’s largest airlines they can absorb short-term losses for long-term […]


  4. […] routes temporarily) is not known.  It is also worth noting Southwest is playing catch-up in trying to develop a Latin American hub in Fort Lauderdale and might be reluctant to pull back from any routes even if it is temporary unless JetBlue and […]


  5. […] Southwest Airlines despite a fleet shortage in fall has yet to reduce any of its six frequencies to Cuba – five from Fort Lauderdale (to Havana, Varadero and Santa Clara) and one from Tampa (to Havana). Given the losses other airlines are suffering on these routes and the capacity cuts, Southwest is probably also bleeding cash but simply riding out the storm hoping to be the last airline standing. Spirit’s abandonment of Fort Lauderdale-Havana flights will no doubt embolden Southwest who is busy building a long-term plan for an international hub in Fort Lauderdale.  […]


  6. […] spent a lot of ink here speculating about what sort of success Southwest Airlines might have with its late entry into the international market from south Florida. With established players American Airlines (from Miami) as well as JetBlue and ultra-low cost […]


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