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Southwest starts international flights out of new Houston Hobby terminal

Southwest starts international flights out of a new $146 million terminal at Houston Hobby on Thursday.
Southwest starts international flights out of a new $146 million terminal at Houston Hobby on Thursday. Star-Telegram

Aruba. Jamaica. Southwest Airlines wants to take you to Bermuda. Bahama. Come on pretty mama.

Ok, so maybe not to Bermuda and Bahama yet. But the Dallas-based carrier launched international flights today out of its new $146 million terminal at Houston Hobby.

Southwest now has nonstop flights from Houston to Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and San Jose, Costa Rica and Belize City, Belize. It plans to add flights to Liberia, Costa Rica and Montego Bay, Jamaica on November 1.

Since Dallas Love Field is not allowed to have international service per the Wright Amendment Compromise agreement, Southwest customers who want to fly to Mexico and the Caribbean from Dallas will have to stop in Houston first.

“You haven’t had tremendous access to the international network. That will now open up more for Texas as we get these flights up in Houston,” Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said last week at a media day held in the new terminal.

The city of Houston expects the new five-gate international concourse to bring in 778,835 passengers annually for the first three years and then 1.3 million annually after 2018.

The new concourse also includes a customs facility to process international passengers entering the U.S. Southwest launched flights from Houston to Aruba early this year, but those flights clear customs in Aruba as part of the government’s new pre-clearance program.

Southwest controls four of the five gates at the concourse, although it is allowed to use the fifth gate if no other airline is using it. But if the international service is successful, Kelly suggested the carrier could add more destinations to Houston.

“If we fill up the five-gate terminal there is absolutely interest with the current Houston leadership that we could expand this terminal further,” Kelly said. “It could at least double, maybe more.”