News Column

Southwest Takes Over Fla.-San Juan Flights

Nov. 5, 2012

Sara K. Clarke and Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel

Southwest Airlines is expanding its reach beyond the 48 contiguous states as it continues to integrate AirTran Airways into its operations.

The Dallas-based carrier said it will begin flying out of San Juan's Luis Munoz Main International Airport in Puerto Rico next April, as it transfers routes from AirTran to Southwest. The airline will take over nonstop flights between San Juan and both Orlando and Tampa Bay.

"Southwest celebrates San Juan, Puerto Rico, as our first venture beyond the continental United States," said Bob Jordan, who serves as Southwest Airlines' chief commercial officer and AirTran Airways' president. "AirTran has done a wonderful job establishing a presence in this market, and Southwest is proud to continue that legacy."

AirTran, the Orlando-based carrier that merged with Southwest, will continue to offer service between San Juan and Baltimore/Washington, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood and Atlanta. Southwest said it will eventually determine when to convert those routes as part of the ongoing integration.

China travel to keep growing

One of the fastest-growing markets for travel to the United States looks poised to continue growing into next year.

Despite a cooling economy, nearly eight out of 10 tour operators in China project year-over-year growth in bookings to the U.S. during the fourth quarter, according to a survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. More than nine out of 10 predict year-over-year growth during the first quarter of 2013.

China is becoming an increasingly important generator of U.S. tourism. The country was the fastest-growing of the top 20 source countries for U.S. travel during May, up 26 percent from a year ago. Total travel from China was up 42.5 percent during the first five months of 2012.

According to the Commerce Department-sponsored survey, the top motivator for Chinese travelers visiting the U.S. was visa-processing times. U.S. tourism businesses have been aggressively lobbying the government to speed visa processing in growth markets like China. The top deterrent for Chinese travelers? Threats of pandemics or epidemics, such as the H1N1 flu virus.

Stuck at OIA a good thing?

Orlando International Airport is one of the country's top 10 "Best Airports to Get Stuck In," according to MissTravel.com, which bills itself as the "world's first and only travel-dating website."

OIA ranked sixth in a survey evaluating "desirability" based on criteria such as cleanliness, aesthetics, and food-and-shopping options. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport topped the list. Least desirable: Washington Dulles International Airport.

Disney exec writes another book

Former Disney executive Lee Cockerell's new book, "The Customer Rules," is coming out next March. Cockerell, who retired in 2006 as Walt Disney World's executive vice president of operations, now tours the world talking about customer service, drawing on principles taught at the Disney Institute. His first book, "Creating Magic -- 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From A Life At Disney," was published in 2008.



Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)


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