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Southwest Airlines announces international route expansion to Caribbean

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Southwest is taking the "LUV" international.

According to NBC News on Monday, Southwest Airlines is branching out into international territory by adding three destinations in the Caribbean. Starting July 1, the airline will begin making stops in Aruba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.

The change was made official at midnight on Sunday, allowing customers to purchase tickets to the new ports out of Atlanta, Orlando, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Flights are available to all three Caribbran destinations from Baltimore-Washington, while the Atlanta and Orlando airports will serve as the origin for travel to Aruba and Jamaica.

"Our AirTran acquisition really set the stage for what has turned out to be a massive undertaking," Southwest chairman, president, and CEO Gary Kelly said.

That acquisition was first announced in September 2010 and completed in May 2011 after receiving final approval from the Department of Justice. AirTran Airways already has international routes of its own and flies to resort towns in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.

Southwest reportedly plans to start out "conservatively" with the destination additions and eventually add 70-80 planes to new international routes, possibly by 2015. Two potential origin cities for the further expansion are Houston and Fort Lauderdale.

Based in Dallas (the 'Luv' comes from the city's Love Field Airport), Southwest is the largest U.S. airline based on passengers carried and currently flies to over 70 destinations within the country's borders.

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