Mexico's Volaris is looking at expanding its new US operation this summer ahead of the start of its highly anticipated codeshare with Southwest Airlines.

Volaris at the end of June 2009 launched transborder services with Los Angeles and Oakland in California as its first two international gateways. The carrier now serves Los Angeles from Guadalajara, Morelia, Toluca and Zacatecas while Oakland is served from Guadalajara, Tijuana and Toluca.

Volaris marketing director Jose Calderoni says the low-cost carrier is now looking at adding transborder capacity as part of the next phase of its US expansion plan.

"We'll probably grow a little in the US [in 2010]," Calderoni tells ATI and Flightglobal. "We've been very successful in Los Angeles and Oakland."

He says the extra capacity will likely constitute a mix of additional flights at Los Angeles and Oakland as well as new US destinations. Volaris previously indicated it plans to serve at least 10 destinations by 2015 with a focus on large Southwest airports where there are connection opportunities.

In addition to Los Angeles and Oakland Volaris last year secured authority to serve Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Calderoni says Fort Lauderdale is still under consideration but will not necessarily be Volaris' third US gateway.

"We're still evaluating new destinations in coordination with Southwest," Calderoni says.

Volaris now operates 21 Airbus A320 family aircraft. Calderoni says both aircraft Volaris is scheduled to add this year will not be delivered until October but Volaris is looking at adding US capacity for the summer season by adjusting its domestic network.

Calderoni explains the peak summer months are the best time to add capacity on transborder routes given Volaris' focus on the visiting friends and family sector of the market. Calderoni says while Volaris was pleased by the performance of its US flights throughout 2009, load factors on transborder routes are generally higher during the peak summer period and again during the December-January holiday period.

He says Volaris averaged a load factor above 80% over the late December and early January holidays. In response to the high demand the carrier added some flights, including a third Guadalajara-Los Angeles frequency, on certain days.

According to Mexican DGAC statistics released earlier this week Volaris carried 54,000 passengers on its US flights during December. It operated 552 flights to the US that month, giving it an average load factor of roughly 68%.

Over the first six months of the new US operation, Volaris carried 199,000 passengers on 2,190 flights. That translates into an average load factor of roughly 63%.

Domestically Volaris carried 3.1 million passengers in 2009. Calderoni says while there are still opportunities within Mexico the domestic market is more mature and Volaris will focus this year primarily on expanding in the USA.

"The growth will be international," he says. "We believe the Mexican communities can be served better in the US with our service."

Calderoni adds Volaris' positioning in the Mexican-American leisure market should further improve once it starts selling tickets on connecting US domestic flights operated by Southwest. He says the codeshare with Southwest is now on track to be turned on in late 2010.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news