Southwest Airlines, with legions of loyal fans, is generally thought of among the second-rank carriers, well behind the Big 3 legacy carriers—but it's not only neither small (nor especially a budget carrier)—it has big expansion dreams.
CEO Gary Kelly told the Chicago Tribune editorial board in an interview this week that he sees at least 50 more North American cities to add to the 87 it already serves, and perhaps a half-dozen more in South America to add to the 11 destinations it serves there now, since absorbing routes when it bought AirTran.
That would all mean a lot more airplanes, too. "Those growth opportunities equate to maybe 500 airplanes on top of the 714 we already have," Kelly said. He didn't give specifics, but since every one of Southwest's planes, one of the largest fleets in the world, is a Boeing 737, the news must sound good to Boeing.
He also speculated on other destinations: "Hawaii, Alaska are both in scope, and Canada is easily within our scope," but suggested that with many major domestic cities not yet served by Southwest, the biggest growth opportunities will be in the 48 states.