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Southwest heads south, enters Atlanta market

By Hpanchal on January 29, 2012

Southwest Airlines has completed the final touches before its move to Atlanta and will open its newly constructed 26,000-square-foot cargo facility at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on February 12. The launch of this facility coincides with Southwest’s initiation of passenger services to Atlanta, a byproduct of the carrier’s May 2011 acquisition of AirTran Airways, which counts Atlanta as a major hub.

Southwest will begin its Atlanta tenure with non-stop passenger routings to Washington, Chicago, Denver, Houston and Austin. Southwest will add daily service to Las Vegas and Phoenix in March and a non-stop Atlanta-Los Angeles service on June 10.

Wally Devereaux, Southwest’s director of sales and marketing, said that the carrier has high hopes for the Atlanta freight facility. Calling Atlanta a “critical city” for Southwest Airlines Cargo, Devereaux anticipates operations taking off tremendously once the operations of Southwest and AirTran fully integrate. “We expect our Atlanta cargo operation to be one of the largest in the Southwest Airlines system,” Devereaux said.

Southwest also expects to see a “healthy mix” of commodities on flights, Devereaux revealed. Unlike the carrier’s Miami operation, for example, which deals in high quantities of fresh flowers, Atlanta is likely to see an assortment of goods, including perishables and retail items, he said.

From a logistics perspective, however, Devereaux said Southwest’s main concern is providing customers in Atlanta with a “fast and efficient tendering and recovery process.” “Additionally,” he said, “we are focused on being able to expedite cargo between the facility and the flight line, so that we can provide customers with short cutoff times and recover their shipments quickly.”

Jim McKeon, strategic advisor of the Southwest Airlines Cargo Management Group, shared similar thoughts with Air Cargo World last fall. Improving customers’ experiences is Southwest Cargo’s top priority, he said, which is why the carrier is currently investing in technology to improve tracking-and-tracing. He expected it to be deployed by mid-2012.

The carrier will launch Atlanta services coming off a sunny end to 2011, a year in which Southwest saw robust cargo and passenger numbers.

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