Southwest Airlines, the owner of AirTran Airways, said Friday that AirTran has received U.S. permission to fly from Denver and Austin to Cancun.

We can interpret that to mean, also, that Southwest Airlines will someday fly from Denver and Austin to Cancun.

Eventually, AirTran will be absorbed into Southwest, and so will its route system. These new routes have been planned by Southwest, with an eye toward what it wants the network to look like in several years when AirTran goes away and there’s only Southwest remaining.

Assuming the carrier gets the necessary Mexican approvals, AirTran plans to begin daily Denver-Cancun service on April 16. It will change to three days a week on July 8 and then to weekend service Aug. 13. The Austin-Cancun service begins May 25 with three flights a week, assuming Mexican government approval.

The Cancun route will mark AirTran’s first service in Austin, an airport where Southwest is the largest carrier. In the first 11 months of 2011, Southwest carried 36.6 percent of Austin-Bergstrom’s passengers, followed by American Airlines with 20.7 percent and Delta Air Lines with 11.5 percent.

Southwest said AirTran will also begin Houston-Austin flights to support the Austin-Cancun service, beginning May 25. It’ll also start Houston-San Antonio service May 24, to support its San Antonio-Cancun service that begins the same day and San Antonio-Mexico City service that begins June 3.

“We are excited to offer more domestic markets new opportunities to travel to Mexico,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest executive vice president and chief commercial officer and AirTran president. “The additional service is one way customers are already realizing the benefits of the Southwest and AirTran acquisition.”

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