It may be the most famous cocktail napkin in aviation history. In 1967, two men met at a bar and restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. Over drinks, one of them took out a pen, and on the aforementioned napkin, drew a triangle. He labeled the three points: “Dallas. Houston. San Antonio.”
That was the original business plan for “Air Southwest” — flying between those three cities, several times a day. Thanks to the elegant simplicity of the concept, the employment of innovative cost-cutting and common-sense measures, an irreverent corporate culture, and a healthy dose of creativity in customer service, that company, now called Southwest Airlines, has grown over the past half-century to become the third- (or fourth-, depending on how you count) largest passenger airline in North America.
If you were to try to draw Southwest’s service map today, you’d need a far larger cocktail napkin. The airline now serves more than 100 destinations, including, starting this June, Grand Cayman.
We mention all of the above because when Southwest does anything, it tends to do it big (and differently). True to form, the upcoming flights connecting Cayman to Florida will operate on a daily basis, and, rather than Miami International Airport, will go to Fort Lauderdale.
Although Southwest has grown to be on par in magnitude with the likes of American, United and Delta airlines, the company carries an incredible degree of “brand loyalty” among its clientele, a sentimentality usually reserved for smaller businesses. Just as the new Kimpton Seafire resort is bringing a new set of customers to Cayman, i.e. “Kimpton people,” similarly we expect Southwest to put Cayman on the radar as a vacation destination for “Southwest people.”
As evidence of the excitement stirred up by Southwest’s announcement, consider the following comments posted to the Compass Facebook page in response to our news story:
“Let’s go this summer!!!!”
“Now you guys can come visit!”
“Love that idea I might be able to go home one day”
“Great news indeed.”
“So excited especially since my son gave me a Southwest gift card for Christmas [smiley face] can’t wait to get back on island!”
We could go on … but we think you get the idea …
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the addition of the Southwest route followed a two-year “engagement process” involving local tourism and airport officials. That was two years well spent.
The arrival of Southwest in Cayman should be relished as a major victory for the country and an achievement for the government. It has far more substance and promise, for example, than the Department of Tourism’s recent announcement it is engaging consultants to develop a “Latin America business strategy.”
We await with great anticipation the moment in June when we can expect to see the blue, yellow and red livery of Southwest’s 737s gracing the runway of Grand Cayman’s airport. What will be even more welcome than the jets themselves, of course, are the new visitors to Cayman the jets will carry.