Southwest Airlines is flying to Belize in October 2015. And the more I learn about the newest announced carrier to our country, the more impressed I am becoming. Not only do they allow FREE baggage on your flight (up to 2- 50lb bags) but there are no additional fees for changing your tickets. NO ADDITIONAL FEES.
American and United, two of the bigger carriers flying daily into Belize charge for both bags and ticket adjustments. Both companies – $25 for the first checked bag, $40 for the second. Reservation change fee: $150 to $200. That ain’t cheap.
Southwest also provides Wi-Fi in all of the planes, free live TV and now country specific music playlists with their partnership with Beats.
Yesterday, some of the media in San Pedro met with (wildly photogenic) Brad Hawkins of Southwest Airlines, Anthony Hunt of Tropic Air & The Chairman of the Belize Aviation Development Committee and Julie Kee of Tropic Air.
A Southwest team is in Belize working on the logistics and the security but Brad, who is a Senior Advisor in Communications, is here to meet with the local media and tourism board to work on the launch. The first flight from Houston to Belize in October of 2015 and will be daily, 147 seat flights.
Southwest likes to make a splash at their arrival! Look at the party in Cancun late last year.
Complimentary snorkel gear…Mayan dancers…good times.
Brad answered some questions for us. And filled us in on some more interesting facts about Southwest.
- They have the second largest travel site in the world Southwest.com. You can ONLY book Southwest flights on their website. They do this to keep costs low and to handle the customers experience from booking to deboarding. Since they also have free baggage and change fees, comparison sites like Expedia or Kayak or Orbitz wouldn’t really work. Comparing say United’s and Southwest’s prices would be like apples and oranges.
- They have a different model than other airlines, focusing on employees first and letting that trickle down. Though I’ve never flown Southwest YET, I LOVE IT. Miserable airline employees coupled with already miserable fliers is a rough combo and we two miserable groups feed off each other. A downward misery shit spiral (please excuse my language.) Southwest wants happy employees with spunk and personality and a bit of wiggle room with the rules. And they are good at it – they have appeared on many “Best Companies to Work For” lists.
- People really despise paying baggage fees. Having to pay for my only checked bag when I fly internationally REALLY makes my blood boil. And then when you jam on the plane and there is no overhead space – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! With no fees on SW Airlines, that’s extra money to spend on your vacation. And you’ve arrived without a stress hangover.
- Southwest is the number one carrier in the US. So it’s not just budget travelers or last minute travelers, it’s travelers of all kinds that will be coming to Belize.
- Southwest Airlines likes to participate (with both money and employee manpower) in the communities where it flies. In Denver, where the environment is a top priority, Southwest sponsors a park & recreation center. They have a section of their website about charitable giving.
- Southwest is definitely interested in having a big launch event for their first flight in October. Party at Philip Goldson Airport. Woohoo!
- OH…and most importantly….what we all want to know. THE SOUTHWEST EFFECT. Brad gave an example of when Southwest first entered the Atlanta market and prices dropped about 40% for flights to that city. I am waiting with breath that is baited. Lower prices is what we really REALLY want.
- AND, if this route works for them, they are ready to expand…to fly from Florida and perhaps the Western US.
He also said something very important – that was MAGIC to my ears. Brad first visited Ambergris Caye in 2000 and recognized how unique it is. He said that it is important to him to “Keep It Special”.
I arrived at the lunch meeting with some ideas about how I would market Belize…and we didn’t really discuss that but I was wondering what you think. How would you market this pretty amazing and certainly unique country.
If you were Southwest Airlines and you wanted to get people down to Belize, how would you do it?
The free bags part is huge. We carry your whale sharking- scuba gear free! Your Maya ruins climbing gear free! Or just your towel, bathing suit and suntan lotion free…
And Belize has sun and beaches, sure…but so do lots of places…Aruba, Cancun, Jamaica…what makes Belize’s sunshine different?
Well…you can get that sun while dangling your feet off a catamaran over nurse sharks at Shark-Ray Alley…
or in some inner tubes at the Palapa Bar while sipping a Belikin.
or on a sand bar on the leeward side of the caye.
So many things make Belize special…the people, the festivals, the wildlife (from whale sharks to toucans and jaguars), the food, the music, the Maya, the ruins, the history and the current culture, the caves, the fly fishing, the barrier reef…the very fact that you can travel from one of these places to the next in a matter of hours.
It’s tough to sum up. Impossible to convey in one line or a photo.
A tiny country packed with possibilities.
How would you do it?