Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Southwest Airlines gives up two planned routes to Mexico City

Southwest Airlines is giving up a pair of coveted slots at Mexico City’s airport as the Dallas-based carrier shifts its growth focus elsewhere, including other leisure-friendly destinations in Mexico.

Southwest won the rights to operate four additional flights in and out of Mexico City earlier this year after Delta Airlines and Aeromexico were forced to give them up as part of a joint venture between the carriers.

The decision to relinquish the valuable rights comes at a time when Southwest is in the midst of an international growth-spree, launching service to 16 international destinations since 2014. That includes a heavy focus on popular tourist destinations, including Mexican beach towns, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

Southwest was one of several carriers to gain new access this year at Mexico City International Airport, where the number of daily flights is limited due to space and capacity constraints.

Two of Southwest’s four slots, an industry term for takeoff and landing rights, were used to add flights from Houston. But Southwest decided not to launch flights to Mexico City from Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, both of which were scheduled to begin next summer.

Instead, the airline offered up those two slots to other carriers at no cost. This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation reallocated them to Mexican low-cost carrier VivaAerobus.

A Southwest spokesman said the decision is part of a strategy to focus its Mexico City service through Houston’s Hobby Airport, already a key international gateway for the carrier that provides one-stop access to more than four dozen U.S. cities. Southwest operates four daily flights between Houston and Mexico City.

“Southwest is bullish about Mexico City service over a longer term yet is refocusing on other growth priorities in the nearer term,” spokesman Brad Hawkins said in a statement.

Hawkins said the carrier plans to continue growing its service to other Mexican destinations, including Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos.

A total of 24 slots were made available at Mexico City’s airport as a condition to a deal that will allow Delta and Aeromexico to coordinate more closely on schedules and pricing and share revenue from flights between their respective countries. Another four slots were made available at New York’s Kennedy International Airport.

In addition to Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Volaris and VivaAerobus all received slots at Mexico City's airport that once belonged to Delta or Aeromexico.

(Conor Shine - The Dallas Morning News)

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