Volaris aims to launch two US routes on 1 June

Washington DC
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Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris aims to begin services to the US at the beginning of June but expects its planned codeshare with Southwest Airlines will not be turned on until 2010.

Volaris earlier today filed an application with the US DOT requesting permission to launch services from Toluca outside Mexico City to Fort Lauderdale "in the first half of 2009". A Volaris spokeswoman tells ATI the carrier plans to launch services to two US cities on 1 June, but will not announce the destinations until the end of March.

She says Volaris also plans to begin selling tickets on its new US services on 31 March. But she adds Volaris will not carry Southwest's code on the services until 2010.

Last November Southwest and Volaris announced plans to begin codesharing in 2010. Volaris has since accelerated its planned launch of US services but the Volaris spokeswoman says the carriers are unable to accelerate the launch of the codeshare.

"The codeshare will have to wait another year and a half because we're still checking everything with the legal departments," says the Volaris spokeswoman.

A Southwest spokeswoman confirms the codeshare will not begin until 2010, saying: "We're on the same schedule as what we announced in November. All the permissions and government stuff have to be cleared."

While Volaris will not carry Southwest's code when it launches US flights at the beginning of June, the Southwest spokeswoman says there will be a link on Southwest's website directing potential passengers to Volaris' website. She adds Southwest is not yet prepared to sell Volaris tickets directly because the technology is not yet ready.

Southwest has been working over the last few years on developing technology to facilitate codeshares with foreign carriers. The spokeswoman says the technology to codeshare with Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet will be ready later this year while the technology to codeshare with Volaris will not be ready until 2010. She explains the two technologies are not exactly the same because there are differences in currencies and permissions.

Southwest and Volaris have not yet applied for US government approval to start the planned codeshare. This will probably not occur until the two carriers finalise an agreement covering the planned codeshare, which in addition to Volaris-operated transborder flights will also include Southwest-operated domestic flights.

The Southwest spokeswoman says the two carriers have signed a "letter of agreement" and negotiations on a final agreement are "still going on". She adds Southwest still fully expects to complete the deal despite opposition from some Southwest pilots. "We believe we are great partners," she says.

Southwest last week forged a new tentative contract with its pilots that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) says includes a limit on the number of foreign codeshares the carrier can implement.

SWAPA will not disclose how exactly foreign codeshares will be limited until early March, when information on the proposed new contract is distributed to members.

The Southwest spokeswoman says she has no information on the new contract potentially limiting the size of the Volaris codeshare. The Volaris spokeswoman says reports that the new Southwest pilots agreement could limit or even derail the planned codeshare with Volaris are "rumours" and adds "we don't have any information [the codeshare] is changing because of that".

Volaris cannot begin selling tickets to the US until the application it submitted to the DOT today is approved. If often takes several months for the DOT to approve applications from foreign carriers that have not previously served the US. But the Volaris spokeswoman says the airline is confident all the necessary approvals will be received before the end of March, pointing out Volaris began working with US authorities last November.