Mexican economy airline Volaris announced Tuesday it will offer new daily nonstop air service from San Antonio to Mexico City, starting Sept. 15, effectively achieving goals set out in the City of San Antonio’s five-year strategic plan to increase international air service.
“This new route is a major win for San Antonio and will help us move forward in satisfying a high demand for travel to Mexico from our community,” stated Russ Handy, aviation director for the City of San Antonio.
Currently, Volaris offers direct service from the San Antonio International Airport to Guadalajara three times a week. The addition of this new daily service not only expands Volaris’ presence in San Antonio, but also adds another daily direct flight from San Antonio to Mexico City.
Mexican carrier Interjet already offers two daily flights on weekdays from San Antonio to Mexico City. Aeromexico offers one daily flight. San Antonio International Airport also offers direct flights to Monterrey and, on a seasonal basis, Cancun.
San Antonio lost one of its direct-to-Mexico flights in early 2016 when Southwest Airlines relocated its service to Houston Hobby.
“When Southwest was in the market, they were successful in lowering fares and increasing demand. Since their departure, fares have risen and demand has dropped slightly,” said Brian Pratte, air service administrator for the San Antonio Airport System. “Bringing in this service should produce similar results to those of Southwest by potentially lowering fares, which in turn should increase demand on the route.”
Southwest’s decision to discontinue its direct flight from San Antonio to Mexico City contributed to increased “leakage” from the airport here to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which began offering direct flights to Mexico City via Aeromexico last August.
In January, the latest month for which data is available, 2,932 passengers flew Aeromexico from Austin to Mexico; Volaris transported another 2,183.
Along with direct flights to Guadalajara, Cabo San Lucas, and Cancun, Austin-Bergstrom is offering direct flights to London, Frankfurt, and Toronto as well. According to Jim Halbrook, public information and marketing manager for that airport, international boardings are up 31% over last year, and disembarkations are up 16%.
But since the City of San Antonio’s adoption of a five-year plan in 2016 to develop more air service and attract additional domestic and international destinations, there are signs that the strategy to combine efforts within a dedicated task force and hire an air service development administrator is paying off.
Although the San Antonio International Airport has experienced capacity reductions in recent years, mostly in the shape of downsized aircraft and fewer flights per week, the task force working to develop air service in San Antonio exceeded its first-year goal of 3.6% growth by 20%. Existing carriers have added new flights and Air Canada introduced a daily nonstop to Toronto earlier this month.
“The obstacles to get any route to happen is to prove that the demand exists,” Pratte said. “The carrier is poised to make money because this is not where the industry was 10 years ago with the economic collapse and high fuel costs, where everybody pulled down capacity.
“Every carrier now is making money hand-over-fist. So the goal is not just having as many seats full as possible, but making money from those seats. That goes for any market. We’ve got to be able to prove to the carrier that they will make money.”
Aligning forces among various sectors of the community, from the City and County to the chambers of commerce and visitor’s bureau, Pratte said, is effective with carriers as well. And now that the Air Canada flight to Toronto exists, the task force will do more of that.
“For a long time, there was a lot of negative discussion among a lot of people, and rightfully so,” Pratte said. “We may not have had that same focus that we do now. But it’s very obvious that by exceeding our first-year goal, we’re leaving no stone unturned, we’re doing our due diligence, and we’re adding service and carriers. I definitely know there’s more to come.”
Volaris will offer flights to Mexico City seven days a week, using a 179-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. Ticket sales begin Monday, May 15, and the inaugural flight to Mexico City takes off Sept. 15.