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Southwest to launch ATL freight facility

By control on January 13, 2012

Southwest Airlines has constructed a 26,000-square-foot cargo facility at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which will open for business on February 12. The launch of this facility coincides with Southwest’s initiation of passenger service to Atlanta, a byproduct of the carrier’s May 2011 acquisition of AirTran Airways.

Wally Devereaux, Southwest’s director of sales and marketing, told Air Cargo World that the carrier has high hopes for this 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 told Air Cargo World, “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.

Southwest’s freight operations will also be propelled by the acquisition of 737-800 series aircraft this year, McKeon told Air Cargo World. “The 737-800 has considerably more capacity for cargo than our existing 737-series aircraft and should present excellent opportunities for Southwest Airlines Cargo customers,” he said.

“Our main focus on the cargo side will be to continue providing a great experience to our customers while maximizing the available capacity of the aircraft,” McKeon added.

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