Volaris adjusts domestic schedule ahead of US launch

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Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris plans to cut capacity on some its high frequency domestic routes to free up aircraft for its new services to California as well as new seasonal flights to Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta.

A Volaris spokeswoman says the carrier is moving forward with plans to launch four daily flights to the US from 1 July. The carrier in April firmed plans for a July launch of service to Los Angeles and Oakland from both its base at Toluca outside Mexico City and Guadalajara.

Last week Volaris also applied for traffic rights to serve Oakland from Tijuana. The spokeswoman says the carrier plans to add this route later in the year but has not yet set a launch date.

Volaris also has traffic rights to serve Fort Lauderdale from Toluca but the spokeswoman says the carrier does not plan to add any US destinations beyond Los Angeles and Oakland until 2010. "We're going to just have two destinations this year," she says.

As Volaris has deferred all new aircraft deliveries until 2010, the spokeswoman says the carrier will have to adjust its domestic schedule in order to make room for its first four international routes. ATI reported earlier this year that Volaris, which now operates 19 A319s and two A320s, had deferred delivery of the three A319s it had committed to taking in 2009 due to the economic downturn.

The spokeswoman says the carrier has not yet finalised its new domestic schedule but the plan is to reduce several routes which are now served three or four times per day to twice per day. "We won't close any destinations and we'll continue all the routes we have, but we will decrease some frequencies," she says.

She adds routes which are now served three to four times per day include Toluca to Cancun and Tijuana.

The spokeswoman says capacity on some routes also will need to be reduced in order to make room for new seasonal services from Toluca to Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. These routes will be operated once per day for the summer season.

According to Innovata, Volaris will compete against low-cost carrier Interjet on both of these new routes. Interjet currently operates 14 weekly flights from Toluca to Acapulco and 10 weekly flights from Toluca to Puerto Vallarta. Aeromexico, Aviacsa and Mexicana also already serve both resort destinations from nearby Mexico City.

Volaris currently only serves Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta from Tijuana.

All four of Volaris' US routes will operated once per day on a year-round basis from 1 July. The Volaris spokeswoman says the carrier will officially inaugurate the Toluca-Los Angeles route on 30 June with a special flight carrying non-revenue passengers.

A ceremony in Los Angeles with government and airline officials is planned after the special 30 June flight arrives, which marks Volaris' debut in the US. The spokeswoman says special flight and ceremony was originally scheduled for mid May, but was postponed until the day before the start of revenue services due to the H1N1.

The spokeswoman says Volaris will also operate a special flight from Toluca to Oakland and hold a ceremony there on 16 July, or 15 days after the start of revenue services.

The spokeswoman says tickets sales on all four US routes are going well despite H1N1, which has led to decreased demand in the US-Mexico market and temporary capacity cuts. Volaris began selling tickets on its first US routes in April, just a few days before the outbreak of the swine flu.

But traffic is now starting to recover and should be fully or close to fully recovered by the beginning of July. To promote its four US routes, Volaris has been offering a special $99 one-way fare including taxes.

"We have had an excellent, excellent response," the spokeswoman says. "Everything is selling OK for the summer."

She adds Southwest Airlines, which plans to start codesharing with Volaris on all its US flights next year, is also helping promote the routes with a "click through" from the Southwest website to the Volaris website.

While most Mexican carriers have temporarily cut capacity over the last five weeks by cancelling dozens of flights on a day-by-day basis, the spokeswoman says Volaris has had a different strategy. She says Volaris has operated "almost the same number of flights" since the swine flu crisis began. In fact the carrier has tried to take advantage of the cancellations at its rivals by offering a special 500 peso ($38) fare for passengers holding tickets on flights cancelled by other carriers.