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Southwest announces new international flights for Houston

Southwest Airlines will be launching new international flights out of Houston Hobby in 2015 when a new international terminal opens at the airport. Star-Telegram/Paul Moseley
Southwest Airlines will be launching new international flights out of Houston Hobby in 2015 when a new international terminal opens at the airport. Star-Telegram/Paul Moseley Star-Telegram

Southwest Airlines announced plans to launch service to six new international destinations out of Houston Hobby in 2015 pending government approval.

The Dallas-based carrier, which partnered with the city of Houston to spend $156 million on a new international concourse at the airport, said it plans to add flights to Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and San Jose, Costa Rica and Belize City, Belize.

Southwest said it will begin selling tickets on those flights once it receives approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation and expects the flights to begin in October.

The carrier plans to start flights to Aruba from Houston Hobby on March 7 even though the new concourse won’t be finished. Southwest is able to fly passengers in from Aruba without a customs facility in Houston since passengers can move through customs at a U.S. pre-clearance facility in Aruba.

Southwest already flies Cancun, Mexico City and Los Cabos from other U.S. airports. Belize, however, will be a new addition to Southwest’s network and the airline had previously announced it was adding San Jose, Costa Rica and Puerto Vallarta.

“We’re looking at cities [where the] demand is heavily oriented toward the United States customer,” said Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly, speaking at a Wings Club luncheon in New York on Thursday. “That will be a good start for us and our focus right now is Latin America.”

Most of Southwest’s increased capacity in 2015 comes from new flights added at the Houston airport and at Dallas Love Field where the Wright Amendment restrictions were lifted two months ago.

Kelly said he was happy with the performance of the 16 new destinations that Southwest added to Love Field this fall.

“Of all the new flights that we’ve added, the average load factor is about 90 percent,” Kelly said, speaking at a Wings Club luncheon in New York on Thursday. Since Love Field is limited to only 20 gates, Kelly added, “I expect that we’re going to continue to run very full flights.”

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