Southwest Cargo set to begin international shipments in May

Date: Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Source: Air Cargo World

Southwest Airlines is getting serious about cargo, with today’s announcement that, following the rollout of its new Southwest Cargo Suite (SCS) point-of-sale system in March, Southwest Airlines Cargo will begin international cargo shipments to destinations in Mexico in May.

The carrier will kick off its shipments to Mexico, with destinations including Mexico City, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, pending government approvals. Southwest Airlines senior director for cargo and charters, Wally Devereaux, told Air Cargo World, here at the AirCargo 2018 conference, that the airline expects to add more routes in Mexico and the Caribbean through 2018 and build steadily on an international cargo business Southwest expects to be small – at first.

“We already have a very large domestic cargo throughput, so the initial volume increase will be small,” Devereaux said. The bigger idea, he added, is to begin these routes now so that in five years or so, international volumes with the carrier will be a substantial slice of its total cargo throughput.

Southwest expects healthy trade on its routes between the United States and Mexico, with northbound flights likely moving perishables to the U.S., while flights to Mexico are expected to transport a variety of cargo, including pharmaceutical products and e-commerce goods.

SCS will include capabilities to facilitate customs procedures between the countries, Devereaux said, and added that, while Southwest is keeping a close eye on discussions of potential changes to the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), “the kind of cargo we will be carrying is not likely to be impacted by changes to NAFTA.”

Devereaux emphasized that the implementation of the carrier’s new SCS system is a vital step in introducing international routes. SCS will introduce the option for customers to book cargo on flights in advance, and permits the use of electronic airway bills (e-AWBs). The advance-booking option will be a gradual roll-out after SCS’s March launch and will not be required for domestic cargo shipments. However, the advance-booking option Southwest is introducing with SCS will be mandatory for international cargo shipments – some booked in advance through SCS and some over the phone with Southwest’s customer care center.

“With the phase-in of advance booking, e-airway bills become important,” Devereaux added. Although some smaller forwarders, in particular, have hesitated to adopt e-AWBs due to the time and money costs of doing so, “the benefits offered will hopefully motivate Southwest’s partners” to do just that, Devereaux said.  He added that Southwest does not anticipate any problems getting its partners on board with e-AWBs.

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