All Nippon international flights ahead
December 11, 2014 Updated: December 11, 2014 11:13pm
Workers prepare a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 for departure at Hobby Airport, with construction of the airport’s international terminal as a backdrop. November 2014.
Southwest Airlines requested approval Thursday to fly to locations in Mexico, Costa Rica and Belize from its new international terminal in Houston.
The Dallas-based airline filed applications with the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting approval for nonstop options between Hobby Airport and four destinations in Mexico, Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo. It also requested approval for flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, and Belize City, Belize.
Once it receives approval, the airline will begin selling tickets for those flights. Service to these destinations could begin as early as October, the airline said in a statement.
Meanwhile Thursday, officials at Bush Intercontinental announced that Japan’s largest carrier is about to begin nonstop service between Houston and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. All Nippon Airways will begin flying the route June 12 and will start taking reservations Wednesday.
This nonstop route will be in addition to two nonstop flights United Airlines offers to Tokyo.
The Southwest international flights at Hobby will coincide with the completion of the $156 million five-gate international terminal under construction there. The 280,000-square-foot project will increase Hobby’s physical sizeby more than 40 percent. The airline hopes the terminal will add more than 1.5 million new travelers to the Houston airport each year.
“Service to Mexico will be the cornerstone of our international operation at Hobby, and the four cities we are announcing today provide exciting travel and business options for consumers,” Gary Kelly, Southwest president and CEO, said in a statement. “Adding Belize to the Southwest network and growing our Costa Rica service continues our expansion to international destinations where our people and consumer-friendly policies can deliver as no other airline can.”The city is preparing infrastructure improvements to accommodate the terminal, including a new parking facility and roadway improvements.
Southwest’s first international flight out of Houston will be a Saturday-only flight to Aruba starting next year, ahead of its original schedule. The airline is already selling tickets for that flight, which begins March 7.
Latin America was also cited in All Nippon Airways’ decision to begin service at Bush. The airline’s president and CEO, Osamu Shinobe, said in a statement that the Houston flight will help connect Japan to locations in Central and South America.
This flight will mark the 10th destination for the airline in North America.
Houston’s airports are experiencing unprecedented levels of international air travel. Travel in Asia contributed to a record-setting year in 2013 for international passengers traveling through Bush Intercontinental.
Turkish Airlines, Air China and Korean Air announced new nonstop daily routes between Houston and Istanbul, Beijing and the Seoul area, respectively, last year.
“Our mission is to connect the people, businesses, cultures and economies of the world to Houston,” city aviation director Mario Diaz said in a statement. “Establishing and maintaining a strong level of connectivity throughout the Asian region is absolutely essential in accomplishing this mission, and the arrival of ANA is a tremendous step forward in this regard.”