Southwest Airlines drops flights to Mexico City

Budget carrier misread Mexican market, says travel expert

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Southwest Airlines jets line up at Houston’s Hobby airport.

Focusing more on leisure destinations, Southwest Airlines will stop flying to Mexico City near the end of March, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The Dallas-based airline started flying from Hobby Airport to a variety of Latin American and Caribbean destinations in 2015 when it opened an international concourse. Four nonstops a day have been running from Hobby, the city’s smaller airport.

“Mexico City was showing very nice improvement,” Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chairman and CEO, said Thursday during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “It’s much more of a business market. And given where we are right now, we just have better business opportunities in terms of deploying that capacity. We’d love for us to be back in Mexico City one of these days.”

He added that beginning service to Hawaii is a priority for Southwest. It’s working to initially offer flights between California and four destinations in the islands.

The Mexico City news did not surprise Houston-based airline consultant Pete Garcia, who said Southwest doesn’t understand Mexican travelers, who don’t usually book flights through an airline’s website.

“There’s still a lot of business that is booked through travel agencies,” Garcia said. “I would say at least 75 percent is still booked through travel agencies.”

Southwest never did penetrate that market, so it missed a lot of Mexican travelers.

The airline also has stiff competition in Mexico City. Mexican travelers are more familiar with Aeromexico, and Interjet is a well-known lower-fare airline. Both fly nonstop to Bush Intercontinental, Houston’s dominant airport.

In the U.S., United Airlines at Bush Intercontinental offers six daily nonstop flights — except Saturday, which has four — to Mexico City and more than 40 daily flights across Mexico including to Merida.

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