'Southwest International'

It's finally happening. Some three years after its acquisition of AirTran, Southwest this year will begin one of the final and most visible transitions in the integration process as it starts to take over its partner's routes to the Caribbean and Mexico.

The big day is July 1 for several routes to Aruba, Montego Bay and Nassau. AirTran's remaining international routes, notably including those to Cancun, Los Cabos and Mexico City, will switch to the Southwest brand by the end of the year.

Given the proximity of Mexico to Southwest's motherland, the U.S.-Mexico market has always seemed to us to be something of a missed opportunity for Southwest. Anyone gazing at a map can draw all sorts of lines across that border, and it seemed a natural place for Southwest to expand. But it never did.

So we congratulate Southwest on this milestone, and we venture to guess that the carrier's traditional timidity about international service will recede rapidly, just as its former avoidance of the congested Northeast airports gave way pretty quickly as it elbowed its way into the scramble for slots.

LUV, your niche days are behind you.
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