The FINANCIAL — Employees of Southwest Airlines launched a new international chapter today in a 45-year history of serving Houston by joining with Houston Airport System and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to open a new five-gate concourse, Federal Inspection Station for Customs and Border Protection, new concessions for travelers, and begin daily international service for travelers using Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport.
Southwest’s new nonstop daily service to a total eight international destinations by November charts a new horizon for Houstonians who value world-renowned Customer Service and low fares offered through Southwest.com.
At a morning news conference that began just as Southwest Flight 305 to Cancun departed from one of five gates in the airport’s new west concourse, Southwest’s local Employees and Company Leadership joined many Houstonians who played a role in bringing international service back to William P. Hobby Airport, according to Southwest Airlines.
“Our roots run deepest in Houston, one of our original Southwest cities, where our friendly People offer reliable service at low fares and help make Southwest the airline that now flies more travelers in the U.S. every day than any other carrier1,” said Gary Kelly, Chairman, President and CEO. “It’s a fitting place to firmly plant our investment to connect Houstonians and millions of Southwest Customers who will pass through this facility to what’s important in their lives across a growing list of international service options.”
“Houston’s already strong connection to the Americas — both culturally and economically — just got even stronger,” said Mayor Annise D. Parker. “Houston has a well-earned reputation as a great place to do business, but it also features world-class amenities and an amazing quality of life. This partnership with Southwest will help provide limitless opportunities for businesses, residents, and tourists from the Americas to experience all of that.”
In 2012, the Houston City Council overwhelmingly approved Southwest Airlines’ proposal to expand service across borders from William P. Hobby Airport by building the new international concourse and Federal Inspection Station, thus “freeing Hobby” from domestic-only capability and a historically monopolized market long-burdened by high international airfares. Southwest broke ground on the new facility on Sept. 30, 2013, and two years later has completed the $156 million project both on time and under budget. Southwest worked diligently throughout the construction to give opportunity to Small Business Enterprise and Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (SBE / MWBE), and has exceeded City of Houston SBE / MWBE requirements.
“CBP is proud to have worked with Southwest Airlines and the City of Houston to bring international air service to Houston Hobby Airport after a 46-year hiatus,” said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “CBP is strongly committed to promoting travel and tourism to the United States by improving the international arrivals experience and the opening of this new international terminal, along with our Trusted Traveler Programs and Automated Passport Control are important steps to enhancing travelers’ arrival experience.”
International-themed festivities at the airport throughout the day included a chance for travelers in the terminal to win prizes provided by Southwest Vacations. Ceremony surrounded departures to the new destinations, including Belize City, Belize, Southwest’s 96th and newest city served.
Through William P. Hobby Airport, Southwest Airlines today began operating twice daily nonstop service to and from Cancun as well as once daily nonstop options between Houston and Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos, a total of four cities in Mexico. Nonstop service linking Costa Rica to Houston also began today with a daily flight to and from the nation’s capital, San Jose, with additional new service to Liberia in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province, Southwest’s 97th city served, scheduled to begin daily operation Nov. 1, 2015, subject to foreign government approval. That same day, Southwest is scheduled to begin daily nonstop service between Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Houston Hobby.