Yesterday, news broke that a press conference to take place at Hobby Airport was scheduled by Mayor Annise Parker. It was pretty easy to speculate what it would be about, the future of Hobby Airport and Southwest Airlines’ desire to fly international flights from there. It came as no surprise that the press conference was the confirmation of the speculation, that Hobby would have an international terminal and immigration facility built. What did come as a surprise were a few of the details.
- Southwest Airlines will pay for the entire cost of construction
- No passenger service charges will be added to tickets due to construction
- For Southwest’s part in building of the terminal, they will receive preference on four out of the five gates being built
- Southwest will pay no rent on the terminal or the customs and immigration facilities
- Rebates will be made available for other carriers who start operations at Hobby and bring an increase in passengers
- The City of Houston will be the owners of the terminal after construction
A piece that was kind of mentioned in passing was Southwest’s lease term. It sounded like a 25-year lease but I am not 100% on that.
All around, I’m sort of ambivalent. It is good news that the city is not footing the bill, it shows that Southwest is serious about the international operations. However, I do think the full ramifications of more traffic out of Hobby are not completely understood. None of the studies done looked at car traffic, parking, etc. These are important items for the community and I hope they are addressed before construction is underway.
The other piece is United’s threats of moving flights and how serious they are about following through on them. We may see a few flights announced from other hubs but I have no doubt that United is going to want to compete in the Houston market.