Southwest Airlines has won U.S. approval to fly from Houston to Mexico City and San Jose del Cabo.Southwest has also filed with US and Mexican authorities for approval to fly from Hobby to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. It has also requested approval for flights from Hobby to San Jose, Costa Rica, and Belize City, Belize. No word on when those approvals will be granted, or what other international destinations Southwest might serve from Hobby in the future.
Southwest plans to operate the flights beginning in October from a new international terminal being built at Houston's Hobby Airport.
The number of flights between the U.S. and Mexico is limited by treaty, but the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated Tuesday that both countries agreed to allow additional airlines to fly across the border.
That being said, international flights to Hobby are now a reality: one week ago, the airport welcomed its first international flight since the 1960s, a Southwest 737 from the Caribbean island of Aruba. The international terminal at Hobby is not set to be complete until later this year, but (as I noted in a previous post) the presence of a US Customs preclearance facility at Aruba's Queen Beatrix airport allows this particular flight to be handled as a domestic arrival.
What will be interesting to see is if any airlines other than Southwest avail themselves to Hobby's international facilities. Several low-cost Mexican airlines -Interjet, VivaAerobus and Volaris - either have or will soon start service from Mexico to Bush Intercontinental. At that airport they face competitition with United's extensive Latin American network, as well as all the Latin American services that cattle carrier Spirit is adding from IAH. Given that Hobby is close to the Hispanic neighborhoods of the East End and Pasadena, would some of these airlines consider flying from that airport instead? Would an airline be willing to step into the void and fly from Hobby to Latin American cities that United has abandoned, like Mazatlán or Guayaquil?