Volaris plans to add four to five US gateways in 2011

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Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris is planning to boost capacity to California this month and add four to five new US gateways next year, including Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas.

Volaris yesterday announced it will launch service on 13 December to Chicago Midway, which will become the carrier's fourth US gateway after Los Angeles, Oakland and San Jose. Volaris CEO Enrique Beltranena tells ATI and Flightglobal the carrier is also increasing capacity on its six existing US routes and will operate "almost 15" daily flights to the US by mid-December, compared to eight to nine per day while Mexico had a category two safety rating from the FAA.

Beltranena says Volaris intends to further expand its transborder operation in 2011. He says this expansion will "certainly" include Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas as Volaris already has US Department of Transportation (DOT) approval to serve these destinations. "We're also looking for two to three more cities," Beltranena says.

The additional flights to California as well as the new gateways are made possible by Mexico's return to category one. The FAA in July downgraded Mexico to category two, during which foreign carriers were unable to add capacity to the US. The FAA restored Mexico's category one rating earlier this week.

Beltranena says before the restoration of category one Volaris was already planning transborder expansion in December, using some of the three Airbus A319s the carrier recently added to its fleet. But he says the carrier would have operated the additional US flights as charters if category one was not restored in time.

"We were waiting for category one. We were pretty certain it would happen in December," Beltranena explains.

The three additional A319s gives Volaris a fleet of 24 A319s and two A320s.