Southwest Airlines is to begin flights from Houston Hobby to both Mexico City and San Jose Cabo after receiving approval from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Mexican civil aviation authority (DGAC).
Both the DOT and DGAC have agreed to extend the low-cost carrier extra-bilateral rights, with validity through to January 22, 2017.
"We have decided to approve the balance of Southwest’s request for exemption authority," the DOT ruled. "In doing so we note the representations of the DGAC that it will favorably consider a request from Southwest to serve the Houston-Mexico City and Houston-San Jose del Cabo markets on an extra-bilateral basis.”
The airline had previously and unsuccessfully petitioned the DOT to reallocate it one of two route authorities currently held by United Airlines and Skywest Airlines. Southwest had argued that United Airlines and SkyWest Airlines were operating flights only for the benefit of one airline, United, and asked the DOT to replace one of them with Southwest. The U.S. Department of Transportation turned down Southwest’s request.
“In light of the circumstances of this case, the U.S. Government asked the Mexican Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (DGAC) whether it would favorably consider an application for extrabilateral authority in the subject markets,” the DOT said.
Southwest plans to launch services from Houston Hobby to a number of non-US cities after a five-gate international facility is finished at the airport.
Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the airline was pleased with the decision: “We hang our hat on the peg of public interest supporting what we said in our application, which is that Southwest Airlines would bring low-fare pressure and Southwest value in these international markets,” he said.
The airline recently launched a new route to Aruba, which operates on a weekly basis – marking the airline’s first international destination. International travel was made possible between Aruba and Hobby after US Customs and Border Protection initiated a pre-clearance facility in Aruba.
In addition to Aruba, Southwest plans to add flights from Hobby to Belize, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, San Jose and Costa Rica later this year.