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Southwest alliance to lead to more access to Canada flights

By Newsday

Southwest, which flies the bulk of the commercial flights out of Long Island MacArthur Airport, would offer international service for the first time through the code-share partnership. Routes, flight schedules and other details are not expected until late 2009. The U.S. and Canadian governments must approve elements of the deal, the airlines said.

"We are excited to work toward opening our expansive U.S. network to include Canadian destinations," Southwest chairman and chief executive Gary Kelly said in a statement earlier this week.

The agreement between the Dallas-based Southwest and WestJet, based in Calgary, Alberta, may also include integrating frequent-flier programs.

Airline analysts yesterday said embattled air travelers would likely benefit from improved service and competitive pricing.

In addition to possibly providing routes from Islip to Toronto and Montreal for business travelers, Southwest frequent fliers could likely find other WestJet destinations appealing.

"Right now with Southwest, if you're one of their dedicated fliers, you can go to Lubbock [Texas] or something on your free ticket," said Alan Bender, an airline economist at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. More popular locales like Hawaii and Mexico served by WestJet "are things that Southwest doesn't offer."

Robert W. Mann Jr. of Port Washington, an independent airline analyst and consultant, said low-cost Southwest and WestJet seem to be natural siblings. "Some of the founders of WestJet essentially went to school on ... aspects of Southwest," he said.

Sean Durfy, president and chief executive of WestJet, said, "Together, we will demonstrate that low-cost, high-value airlines represent the future success of air travel."

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