Southwest Airlines will beef up its international portfolio on Thursday with the opening of a new concourse it financed at Houston Hobby Airport.
The five-gate concourse will house Hobby's first customs facility as well as a Southwest ticket counter. It has been under construction since September 2013.
“We just believe that by funding this facility, it shows Houston how excited we are and that we're dedicated to growing our international footprint,” Southwest spokeswoman Thais Hanson said.
The airline will begin service from Houston to Cancun, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Belize City and San Jose (Costa Rica) on Thursday. Southwest flights between Houston and Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Liberia, Costa Rica, will begin on Nov. 1. Previously, Southwest offered just one international route from Hobby — to and from Aruba, where passengers cleared customs prior to boarding their flights to the United States.
The expansion at Hobby will increase the number of gates Southwest operates at Houston's second airport from 18 to 23. The new routes will allow Southwest to offer more appealing international connections for Dallas-based travelers, as international flights from that city's Love Field (where Southwest controls 18 of the 20 gates) are prohibited under federal regulations.
Southwest, which operates 3,600 flights per day, began operating international routes in July 2014. It will serve 12 destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean with the launch of the Liberia service next month.
Houston's Hobby Airport made history this morning. The facility's brand new international terminal opened to passengers with its first flight headed to Cancun, Mexico.
Southwest Airlines covered the $156 million cost of constructing the building. The terminal is more than 280,000 square feet with five gates. By year's end, Southwest Airlines plan to offer flights to 10 Latin American destinations with service to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Belize.
Eyewitness News caught up with Southwest Airlines spokesperson Thais Hanson to talk about what this may mean for your next flight. The company said they promised to "Free Hobby" and drive down prices in the market. Today, Southwest Airlines said their dream of giving Houstonians another option in aviation has come true.
"Your question was our we trying to bring down the price in the market. That's what we do. The Southwest effect is what we're known as. We do that domestically and now we're looking forward to doing that internationally as well," said Hanson. "Houstonians no longer have to drive north to fly to fly south. We're creating a new need and giving Houstonians what they want and what they needed for a long time."
Eyewitness News reached out to United Airlines for comment. The company has a hub at the "Big Airport." They provided ABC-13 with the following: "We've competed successfully in the Houston market for many years and we believe travelers will continue to value our broad network and frequent flights that no other airline can match from Houston."
In addition to the new terminal, a new parking garage and a new customs area are part of the project. Airport officials said there are no plans to change the name William P. Hobby Airport given the new international service.
Off to the Lone Star State: Houston via Southwest Airlines! This is by far one of the coolest things I get to do in my time at The San Pedro Sun and My Beautiful Belize: International Travel!
In February of 2015, Southwest Airlines announced their brand new international destination out of Houston, Texas, USA, and it was to our beloved Belize!
I met with Brad Hawkins, then Michelle Agnew, as they finalized the details of their upcoming grand arrival. In the process, guess who got an INVITATION?! And I had a choice too: I could go to Houston via other routes, then fly in ON the first flight out of Houston to Belize…OR…I could fly back on the return to Houston, and stay as long as I wanted!
Thanks to the awesome people at Tropic Air, I even got a flight to International Airport from San Pedro Town. (Y’all love me, you really love me…)
and so is Rebecca!!!
San Pedro to Houston And Tomorrow, Southwest Airline’s First Belize Flight This two day whirlwind trip to Houston and back has, so far, been pretty amazing.
Making our way to Houston as guests’ of Southwest to take that very first flight from Houston Hobby Airport to Belize City is super exciting for me. I packed a few things…including my Belize (and Southwest) colors and was off…. Tuesday morning, I was booked on the 9am Tropic Air flight from San Pedro to Belize City to start my journey.
Almost everything is complete at Philip Goldson’s Belize City Airport. Handy kiosks to print out all of your Southwest information, even your luggage tagging.
What a gorgeous day to fly out…
Welcome Southwest Airlines! Video courtesy Tropic Air
If you follow your dreams..well the sky is the limit. Southwest Airlines First Flight to Belize was piloted by a Belizean, Captain Lindley Reyes!! Congratulations to Mr. Reyes and his entire family!
The Southwestern Solution?
Discount carrier Southwest Airline's daily non-stop flight from Belize to Houston was officially launched today at the Phillip Goldson International Airport. The first flight - which was full - landed after 3 this evening and a ceremony was held to commemorate Southwest's arrival in Belize. Today we spoke with Director of Tourism Karen Bevans and she told us how this new flight will benefit regular travelers and boost the tourism industry.
James Ashworth, Managing Director, Customer Support & Services - Southwest Airlines "This is historic for south west as well because it is our first time in Belize and it is really good for us because we like to connect people to what's important in their lives. And we believe that there is a lot of Belizeans that would like to get to the states and there are a lot of folks from the states that would like to get to Belize. So it is exciting for us."
Courtney Weatherburne "So in terms of Southwest is a discount carrier. Tell us about the services that will be provided."
James Ashworth "Well Southwest, we have what we call the Southwest effect. When we enter a market, we bring fares down by approximately thirty percent; we have no bag fees, no change fees and we have world class customer service. So for us, it is bringing a great product to a great market."
Karen Bevans, Director of Tourism "As Southwest already mentioned it definitely will be beneficial to the Belizeans. I must say first of all. Must lower fares. Free baggage, change seats, change dates, change anything free of cost and I am sure Belizeans were looking forward to that. That will also bring about a new turn or a new paradigm shift in the market, because then the competing airlines will of course do something to match that or to keep in line with competition, all to the benefit of Belizeans. As we always say competition brings benefit to the public and to consumers and this is what we want in the industry. This will help to grow the industry and we were looking forward to it. Today its reality."
Bevans also RAVED about the increase of overnight tourist arrivals from June to September. September alone saw a 19.3% increase in overnight tourism. It has been a good year so far in the industry and she told us how this new flight will further increase the number of overnight arrivals.
Karen Bevans, Director of Tourism "I think a couple months ago, we did an interview and at that time, we had like a one percent reduction in arrivals. I am pleased to say that September we have a 19.3 percent increase in arrivals. And that is an indication that things are changing, the market is changing and Southwest will just compliment that. Lower fares will definitely put more heads in beds because that is what we are all looking for international. The tourists are looking for that and definitely we can see major benefits for Belize."
Southwest connects to 95 destinations in 7 countries.
Southwest Airlines celebrates inaugural flight between Belize and Houston
October 15, 2015 marked the much-heralded arrival of Southwest Airlines’ inaugural flight to Belize. Flying out of Hobby International, the flight landed just at 3PM, to much fanfare and Southwest fun!
Formal ceremonies took place inside the Philip Goldson International Airport, at the Southwest boarding area. Speakers included US Ambassador to Belize, Carlos Moreno, Jorge Espat – Managing Director of the Belize Airport Concession Co., Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. – Minister of Tourism, Culture & Civil Aviation, and James Ashworth, Managing Director of Customer Support and Services Southwest Airlines.
According to Ashworth, the Southwest effect is tremendous, causing a drop in air flight prices by ‘as much as 30%’ wherever they go. Espat highlighted that point, indicating that while arrivals clocked in a 2.5% increase last year (2014), the Southwest effect seems to have caused an increase of up to 27% in the months since the announcement of their arrival alone!
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Southwest Inaugural Flight to Belize from its new Houston Hub: It was a day of celebration with Southwest arriving in Belize!
Houston, You Have An Option! Daily SOUTHWEST Airlines Flights Begin From Hobby Airport to Belize!
The hashtags at Houston’s Hobby Airport were flying yesterday just like the airport’s first international flights. At 7am, the 1st flight from Houston-Hobby (a Southwest 737) took off to Cancun (under an amazing water arch)… …and then an hour or so later, to Cabo San Lucas…and they continued. Puerto Vallarta, Liberia Costa Rica, Belize City…
Oh…and I was there!
Southwest Airlines and the city of Houston have been working for years to open up the city’s smaller airport (as compared to Bush International Airport) to International flights. And yesterday was the day. AND WHAT A DAY IT WAS. Here’s the low down.
From check-in to touch-down, Southwest Airlines was absolutely fantastic – the employees more excited than the customers in many cases. Their enthusiasm was contagious (and trust me, I was already excited.)
Greeted at the check-in desk with coffee, donuts and smiles.
Southwest's Inaugural Flight to Belize Touches Down at P.G.I.A.
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 First Landing in Belize!
First landing in Belize for Southwest Airlines on October 15, 2015! With a water cannon salute too!