The near-international markets -- Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean -- are mentioned most often for Southwest's first international service, either through code-sharing or providing the service itself. The carrier hasn't ruled out feeding passengers to carriers on other international routes to Europe or Asia, or, for that matter, someday flying internationally.
Industry consultants said Southwest should also rethink its policy of one airplane type, the Boeing 737. Southwest likes the simplicity of having a single plane for repairs and service, but different planes would give it access to more markets.
Mr. Boyd and Mr. Harteveldt said a smaller narrow-body jet like the Embraer 190 would open up smaller U.S. markets that currently aren't large enough to support Southwest service. Mr. Gritta said if Southwest is serious about getting into international flying, it should consider the wide-body Boeing 787 that is to enter commercial service next year.
Mr. Klaskin applauded Southwest's willingness to deviate from its traditional successful model.
"It'd be a lot easier to just keep doing what they're doing. They could be the great holdout -- the low-cost, low-fare, short-haul, domestic, cattle car, plastic boarding pass airline. They could sail off into the sunset doing that," Mr. Klaskin said.
"You know what? That'll work well for another few years, no question. But they're smart enough to know it's not going to work forever. They're smart enough not to get chained down by the public expectations of them."
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