Southwest Airlines Co. will begin shipping to Mexico in the Dallas-based carrier’s first foray into international cargo shipments.
Southwest (NYSE: LUV) will launch the service in May, subject to necessary government approvals. Initial destinations will be Mexico City, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. More international destinations are planned for 2018.
Cargo will move on Southwest Airlines' domestic flights and then be loaded onto international flights at gateway cities such as Houston.
"By offering the cross-border services that our customers are looking for, we're able to help meet the needs of businesses throughout the United States and, soon, in Mexico," Matt Buckley, Southwest Airlines' vice president of cargo and charters, said in a news release. “As we enter the international cargo market for the first time, customers will have more opportunities to experience the friendly and reliable service for which our cargo team is known.”
The new international shipping options are made possible in part due to the rollout of Southwest Cargo’s new point-of-sale and back office accounting system, Southwest Cargo Suite. SCS is expected to take the place of the current system in March, and along with international capabilities, give customers the ability to make advanced cargo bookings.
Southwest Cargo last week won the Airforwarders Association’s Domestic Carrier of the Year award, one of the air cargo industry’s most prestigious distinctions. This is the ninth consecutive year the carrier has received the award.
Southwest’s plan is to begin the Mexico cargo routes now so that in five years or so, international volumes with the carrier will be a substantial slice of its total cargo throughput, Wally Devereaux, senior director for cargo and charters, told Air Cargo World.
Southwest expects robust trade on its routes between the United States and Mexico, with northbound flights likely moving perishables to the U.S., and flights to Mexico expected to transport a variety of cargo including pharmaceutical products and e-commerce goods, Devereaux said.
Southwest is keeping a close eye on discussions of potential changes to the North American Free Trade Act, although “the kind of cargo we will be carrying is not likely to be impacted by changes to NAFTA,” Devereaux told the publication.