US belly carrier Southwest Airlines Cargo will start shipping freight to select international destinations this summer starting with routes in Mexico.
Mexico City, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta will be the first cargo payloads with more international cargo destinations set to be added later in 2018.
The carrier was targeting the launch of moving cargo internationally this month, but has delayed the start until sometime over the summer.
Southwest Airlines Cargo is also offering a new suite of services and the new international shipping options are made possible in part due to the rollout of sale and back office accounting system, the Southwest Cargo Suite.
CAAS spoke to Southwest’s senior director of cargo and charters, Wally Deveraux (pictured above) about how operations are going at the US carrier, which operates more than 4,000 weekday departures across a network of 100 destinations in the US and 10 additional countries.
Why did you decide to start international freight shipments?
Ever since Southwest Airlines started flying to international destinations in 2014, we began looking at the potential for cargo services. As our passenger side has matured, we saw a growing need for our cargo products. By offering the cross-border services, we’ll continue to meet the needs of business throughout the United States and Mexico as they look to grow their businesses.
Why are you starting with Mexico City, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta?
These are the places where we have the most demand. Additionally, we offer the most flights from our United States gateway cities allowing for a quicker flow of cargo to and from those cities and the US.
What kinds of payloads do you expect to be transporting?
We anticipate carrying much of what we already carry including perishable commodities, e-commerce commodities, fresh cut flowers, and some pharmaceuticals.
What other international destinations are you looking to move freight to?
We are looking at all our international destinations but haven’t announced any additional destinations yet. (Other than Mexico, Southwest also flies to Belize, Cuba, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, and destinations across the Caribbean)
How is the new sale and back office accounting system the Southwest Cargo Suite boost efficiency, operations and business?
The new Southwest Cargo Suite will streamline the way we interact with our customers while bringing Southwest Cargo into the future. It’ll eliminate the need for paper airway bills, allow for customers to make advanced cargo bookings, and also allow us to begin shipping internationally.
Are you receiving any new aircraft into your fleet this year?
We continue to take deliveries of the new Boeing 737 Max 8.
How has cargo performed so far this year at Southwest Airlines Cargo?
We’ve been really pleased with our performance so far. We’re also looking forward to our new international offerings which will begin in the summer.
What have been the strongest lanes and verticals?
We ship a wide variety of commodities including e-commerce/retail commodities, perishable commodities, and some medical/pharmaceutical commodities.
Does Southwest have any plans to invest in air cargo infrastructure?
2018 is a year that we’re beginning to lay our foundational layer to bring Southwest Cargo into the future. In March, we rolled out our new Southwest Cargo Suite. This summer we will begin shipping internationally, and later this year we will take on a major project to revamp our website, swacargo.com.
Where is Southwest planning on making investments over the next one to two years?
Southwest is focused on beginning service to Hawaii. We plan to sell tickets in 2018 but have not yet announced any dates or cities that we’ll serve.
Is Southwest looking into providing specialist products and services likes for pharma, and perishables?
We ship a wide variety of pharmaceuticals and perishable commodities and are always evaluating our products to ensure they are meeting the needs of our customers.