Southwest announced today it will launch flights to Mexico with Volaris, Mexico's second-largest carrier. The agreement, called International Connect, has been in the works for quite some time. Bookings begin November 12, and flights launch December 1.
Southwest and Volaris will link Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Jose with Cancun, Guadalajara, Morelia, Toluca/Mexico City, and Zacatecas. Initially, Southwest will offer domestic connections from most of its West Coast destinations, and said it will evaluate the possibility of adding more destinations early next year.
The arrangement is a little complicated. It's not a codeshare, in which an airline sells a single ticket involving a partner airline and puts its code on the other airline's flight. Instead, Southwest's deal involves two separate airlines cooperating on a combined itinerary. Consumers simultaneously book two tickets, one on each carrier, which are merged into a single itinerary. Each airline is paid individually, and passengers have to check in twice. Bags are checked through to the final destination, though passengers returning from Mexico must collect their bags and pass through customs if they are making a stateside connection.
Adding to the complexity are the two airlines' mismatched baggage policies. Southwest, of course, doesn't charge for bags, while Volaris allows between one and three free checked bags, depending on the fare purchased. Passengers will be subject to the baggage policy of whichever airline is operating the flight.
Passengers can earn Rapid Rewards points on the Southwest portion of their itinerary only.
Southwest says it will explain these details on passengers' itineraries and online, which is good, because consumers will have a lot to keep straight. Between bag fees, passports, taxes and fees, different currencies, and separate check-ins, the arrangement has a lot of moving parts.
So is it good for consumers? Volaris itself has a lot to offer, from free checked bags to free—yes, free—alcoholic beverages onboard. The airline also refunds part or all of your ticket price, depending on fare paid, when your flight is more than 30 minutes late, and refunds your fare when bags are delivered late (Mexico flights only).
But the success of the agreement depends on the ease of use for consumers, and, of course, price. We'll know in a few weeks if Southwest got the details of this right.
Readers, do you think the Southwest/Volaris deal will be a win for travelers?