Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is planning to begin providing international service. They expect to offer the new service in 2014. The airline doesn’t currently fly to destinations outside of the United States. To prepare for this international phase of the airline’s history, Southwest announced that it would require all of its pilots and flight attendants to get passports by the end of 2013.

By making the announcement so far in advance, the airline is taking steps to ensure that none of their flight personnel will encounter any glitch or snafu that could potentially cause delays in the length of time it takes to get a passport.

The United States requires valid passports of all citizens who leave the continental United States, and a passport is required for re-entry into the country. The U.S. State Department website that deals with passports strongly urges people who are filing applications for passports to allow no less than three months for processing.

Southwest Airlines airplanesWhile the exact date of the notice that appeared in the Dallas Morning News is unclear, Southwest is providing itself and its employees with an extra cushion to ensure that entire process of applying for and obtaining a passport is as seamless as possible.

Southwest could have made the announcement via an internal memo to inform flight staff about the requirement. By making a more public announcement, the airline may be attempting to prepare its regular fliers for this new milestone in the airline’s history.

Southwest has developed a reputation for offering very low ticket prices, and for not charging passengers to check luggage. The flip side of that, however, is that those cheaper prices don’t allow passengers to reserve a specific seat. Arriving at the gate early is the key to getting a good seat.