Volaris seeks authority for more than 20 new US routes

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Mexico's Volaris has requested authority to add 23 transborder routes as the low-cost carrier kicks its US expansion plan into high gear.

In a 3 February filing with the US DOT, Volaris is seeking rights for 23 new routes. Volaris says in the filing that one of the planned routes, Guadalajara-Fresno, "will begin immediately after receipt of the department's approval". Volaris also highlights five other routes - Aguascalientes-Los Angeles, Guadalajara-San Francisco, Guadalajara-Sacramento, Mexico City-Oakland and Zacatecas-Chicago - as next on its list for US expansion.

Volaris now serves four US gateways - Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Jose - and last month unveiled plans to launch service to a fifth gateway, Las Vegas, from the end of March. ATI reported in early December that Volaris was planning to add at least five US gateways in 2011, including Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale. Volaris already has authority to serve Fort Lauderdale, from a request originally filed with the DOT in 2009. Given the new filing, it appears Fresno and Fort Lauderdale will be Volaris' next gateways, followed by San Francisco and Sacramento.

According to Innovata, Fresno currently does not have any scheduled service to Mexico while Sacramento only has a thrice weekly service to Guadalajara which was recently launched by Alaska Airlines. Both Fresno and Sacramento previously were gateways for Mexicana.

No carrier currently operates Guadalajara-San Francisco, Aguascalientes-Los Angeles, Mexico City-Oakland or Zacatecas-Chicago. Volaris currently only serves Oakland and Chicago Midway from Guadalajara.

The other routes Volaris is asking US authorities to approve include: Leon to Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento; Cancun to Chicago, Miami, New York and Los Angeles; Mexico City to Dallas and Oakland; Morelia to Sacramento; Mazatlan to Los Angeles; Oaxaca to Los Angeles; San Jose del Cabo to Los Angeles and Sacramento; and Zihuatanejo to Los Angeles

Volaris already has received permission from Mexican authorities to launch these routes. These permissions were primarily secured last month.

While it seems unlikely all 23 routes will be launched this year, Volaris has the capacity coming to dramatically expand its US operation. Volaris also has support from its US partner, Southwest Airlines, to add gateways.

Volaris plans to add three A320s in the current quarter, giving it a fleet of 29 A320 family aircraft. It plans to add at least four more A320s in the second quarter and is looking at adding several more aircraft in the second half of this year.

Volaris has said it plans to focus on the Mexican visiting family and relatives (VFR) market rather than the US leisure market. As a result flights to the US from Mexican leisure destinations - including San Jose del Cabo, Cancun, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta - would represent somewhat of a strategy shift for Volaris if they are launched.