Southwest Airlines and the city of Houston broke ground on a new international terminal at Hobby airport today.
The $156 million project includes five new gates, a federal inspection services facility, an expanded security checkpoint and upgrades to Southwest’s ticketing area, according to the Dallas-based airline. It plans to launch flights to the Caribbean, Mexico and northern South America from Hobby after the facility opens in late 2015.
“With this new international terminal, we are not only literally breaking ground at Hobby airport, we are charting new territory for our company and for low-cost and high-value air travel," says Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest, in a statement.
"This will be Southwest's first international terminal in our 43-year history, and we look forward to bringing lower fares and more international flights to a city that could benefit from increased competition,” he adds.
Project costs have increased from $100 million when it was approved by the local city council in May 2012. Southwest is funding the project.
Hobby is the seventh largest airport in Southwest's system with 156 daily departures, according to the airline.
Southwest and its subsidiary AirTran Airways carried more than 92% of the departing traffic from Hobby during the year ending 30 June, US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data shows. Delta Air Lines is the second largest carrier at the airport with 2% of departing traffic.
Available seat kilometres (ASKs) on United Airlines, which opposed the terminal, were down more than 6% at its Houston Intercontinental hub in September compared to a year earlier, Flightglobal/Innovata data shows. The carrier said in May 2012 that it would cut current and planned capacity by 10% at Intercontinental by 2015.
Cuts include pulling its planned Houston-Auckland nonstop and cancelling its Houston-Paris Charles de Gaulle flight.