Partner Pitches International Flights to Southwest

DALLAS (AP) -- A flight-sharing partner has approached Southwest Airlines Co. about operating international flights but Chief Executive Gary Kelly says the big low-cost carrier hasn't decided whether to jump into overseas routes.

Since February, Southwest has been selling seats on ATA Airlines Inc. planes to places it doesn't go, such as Honolulu, Denver and New York LaGuardia Airport, an arrangement called code-sharing.

''They would like to code-share internationally, and we've not made a commitment to do that, but it is something that I think we probably should look at at the appropriate time,'' Kelly said Wednesday.

The ATA deal could add $40 million to $50 million in revenue for Southwest, Kelly said Wednesday at an investors' conference.

Kelly also repeated that Southwest is interested in acquiring gates at the Philadelphia airport if a combined America West and US Airways decide to shed gates. He said Southwest would like to expand in Philadelphia but could turn elsewhere if it can't find more gates.

One expansion option, Kelly said, is Dallas, where Southwest is lobbying to repeal a 1979 law that prevents it from flying from close-in Love Field to anywhere beyond Texas and seven nearby states. American Airlines, the largest U.S. carrier and a dominant player at nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, opposes lifting the restrictions at Love Field.

America West Holdings competes on more routes with Southwest than any other carrier, including the major Southwest markets of Phoenix and Las Vegas. Bankrupt US Airways Group Inc. is a major rival in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Kelly said Southwest operates with lower costs than either America West or US Airways and would enjoy a similar advantage over a combined carrier.

Dallas-based Southwest, the most profitable domestic carrier, flies to 60 U.S. cities and plans to add another in the fall.

Shares of Southwest rose 4 cents, to $14.65 in trading Wednesday morning on the New York Stock Exchange.