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A Codeshare Agreement To Watch

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Although I try to stay in touch with the issues, concerns and interests of AVweb's readers, there is one experience that I have not had that I'm sure puts me in the tiniest minority of AVweb subscribers.

I have never flown on Southwest Airlines.

It's not because I've been avoiding them or them me. It's just never come up as an option. Because I live in Canada, the various rules that govern air travel over borders have kept Southwest out of convenient reach for me when I travel in North America.

I've always found it amusing that Contributing Editor Mary Grady, who lives in New England, regularly flies Southwest to the various shows she covers for us. Northeast-Southwest? Get it?

Anyhow, my access to Southwest is about to change and, while it's unlikely to have caused a ripple in the U.S. yet, the big airline news up here is that Southwest and its equally successful Canadian counterpart, WestJet, have tentatively agreed to a codeshare agreement. I could be wrong (and I'll know when I open my email tomorrow) but I think it's the first time two discount carriers have agreed to share their territory.

What it means to me is that I'll be able to book on WestJet to almost anywhere in North America soon with a one-stop shop. For most of the same reasons Americans like Southwest, I like WestJet. Most of the time it's on time and, when it isn't, staff genuinely try to ease the pain. You know exactly what you're getting on every flight and the flight crews are friendly.

The benefit for Southwest customers is access to our major cities (we do have them, you know) and to our fabulous vacation spots, like the Okanagan Valley, where I live in British Columbia. I live 30 minutes from a world class ski resort, 20 minutes from about 15 unbelievably beautiful lakes and I'm an hour's drive from the Canadian Rockies) WestJet also has a number of sunspot locations that Southwest customers might enjoy.

The rules say that airlines based in one country cannot fly to other countries unless those flights originate in their home country. Return flights must touch down in the home country first.

But with the codeshare between these two, North America is now open to both and all the mergers in the world can't protect the legacy carriers, which have had this kind of traffic to themselves until now.

There's just one missing piece to the puzzle to give travelers low-cost options elsewhere and I'm going to pick Europe as the next evolution of this codesharing bubble.

I took British-based EasyJet from Geneva, Switzerland to Bristol, England a couple of months ago. EasyJet flies all over Europe and operates much the same as WestJet and Southwest. Maybe it would be interested in some kind of arrangement. Of course, the 737s that WestJet and Southwest operate and the mix of 737s and A319s at EasyJet aren't Atlantic-crossing equipment but there are several pond-crossing carriers that are absolutely drooling at the prospect of showing the bedraggled U.S. industry how it might be done. This little agreement with an almost-unknown (outside of Canada) airline and Southwest could be the beginning of a world-wide network of budget flights, which the flying public has overwhelmingly decided is the future of commercial aviation.

On the other hand, it might just mean that I don't have to go through Toronto to get to Milwaukee next year.

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