People are already buzzing about the fact that Southwest Airlines plans to begin introducing flights to Hawaii by some point in 2018 or 2019. Those new routes are going to open up new and exciting vacation possibilities for people living on the West Coast and in many other parts of the country. However, Southwest isn't content to stop at offering flights to this patch of Pacific paradise. The budget airline also has its mind set on expanding to cover international markets.

Southwest currently only offers flights to 14 international destinations. Those destinations are limited to cities in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. It all adds up to Southwest deploying just 4 percent of its capacity to destinations outside of the United States. You can see why Southwest might want to bulk up that percentage once you consider that competing airlines bring in about 25 percent of their annual revenues from international routes.

How likely is Southwest to expand its international offerings in the future? The airline's CEO recently stated that Southwest could add as many as 50 new cities to its list of routes in the coming years. There is also an indication that Southwest is eager to enter the South American market for the first time.

However, breaking into new markets won't be an easy task. It could take decades for Southwest to become a true global airline. The task of introducing the hundreds of new planes needed to achieve that goal would require the airline to consistently roll out between 10 and 12 planes each year. Many are viewing Southwest's plan to offer new flights to Hawaii as a test to determine whether or not the budget carrier can overtake rivals in that market.

Pedro Pla is co-founder of He has been around the globe several times and considers collecting air miles and points from credit cards to be a hobby, if not, an obsession. Email: