It was a who's who of dignitaries inside a blue tent on the tarmac at Hobby Airport, and where in two years the area will be transformed into a five gate, $156 million dollar international terminal, fully funded by Southwest Airlines.
Having recently signed a new 25 year lease at Hobby, CEO Gary Kelly says the facility will be the airline's first international terminal in its 43 year history.
"We'll be able to cross the borders, and Southwest is working on launching international service in 2014, and we'll have wonderful opportunities to fly to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and even the northernmost cities in South America. And the main thing is it'll provide choice. It'll provide competition. You're gonna see fares come down, and a lot more people will be able to afford to fly in and out of Houston, and we're excited about that."
Houston Aviation director Mario Diaz says the new terminal will compliment international service at Bush (IAH) Airport.
"It'll permit longer haul traffic at Bush, it'll stimulate competition into Latin America. It'll reduce prices, it'll increase the frequencies, and the benefits will really help the people of the city of Houston and all of Latin America. People who want to connect to family and friends and businesses, capital formation foreign direct investment in Houston, in Latin America, all to the betterment of the economies of both."
Hobby Airport's International Terminal rendering
A recent study commissioned by the Houston Airport System indicated that the terminal, which sits in Houston Council Member James Rodriguez's district, will generate more than 10,000 new jobs to the area.
"If you look around just the airport campus, the fixed base operators here are putting in multi-million dollar projects, there's a conglomerate that bought some dilapidated apartments. They're gonna renovate that existing property and put it into some mixed use retail, maybe a hotel. The Double Tree just across the street put in about 15-million dollars into renovations. So, we're already seeing the impact now, but yeah, it'll only continue to grow."
The project will include a new parking garage for the estimated 1 million additional passengers. The first international flights out of Hobby's new terminal are expected in late 2015.