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Southwest Pares Decline as CEO Gary Kelly Hints at International Growth

'We'll want to continue to grow our network. Does that mean international? Maybe,' Southwest CEO Garry Kelly told Jim Cramer on CNBC.

Southwest Airlines  (LUV) - Get Report shares turned higher Thursday after outgoing CEO Gary Kelly said the carrier could look to international markets in order to accelerate its planned expansion.

Speaking with TheStreet's founder, Jim Cramer, on CNBC, Kelly said the domestically-focused carrier has "all kinds of growth opportunities" given its use of Boeing's  (BA) - Get Report workhorse 737 aircraft. 

Earlier this month, Southwest said it has converted options on 34 737 MAX jets to confirmed orders, with the expectation of taking delivery in 2022, as it boosted near-term operating revenue forecasts amid improvements in summer travel bookings as the country exits pandemic restrictions. 

"We'll want to continue to grow our network. Does that mean international? Maybe," said Kelly, who said unveiled plans to step down from his CEO role next year in order to make room for incoming boss Robert Jordan.

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Southwest shares, were traded as low as 54.99 in the early session, edged 0.05% higher to $55.62 each following Kelly's CNBC interview, a move that would nudge the stock's year-to-date gain to around 19.3%.

Kelly, a 35-year Southwest veteran, will become excutive chairman of the group on February 1 if shareholders approve the transition.

"Gary has been an outstanding CEO for Southwest for nearly two decades and has developed an excellent group of Senior Leaders to shepherd the airline into its next 50 years," said Southwest lead board director William Cunningham. "Bob inherits a solid strategy and great momentum to continue the airline's recovery as the COVID pandemic wanes. Bob has the Board's full support."