The International Terminal Battle Continues At City Hall

The fireworks over whether to allow Southwest Airlines to offer international flights out of Hobby Airport began at Houston City Hall. That plan is opposed by United Airlines, which has its own international terminal at Bush Airport. Community meetings will give the public a chance to weigh in on the proposal.


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The first of three meetings was at city hall, which included officials from the Houston Airport System, Southwest and United Airlines.

Southwest wants to build a new international terminal, that will allow the airline to fly to Mexico and the Caribbean by 2015. The expansion has the backing from the Houston Airport System.

United operates out of Bush and opposes the Hobby expansion. The carrier says it will mean the loss of jobs and millions in revenue.

City attorney Dave Feldman told members of the council Transportation Committee that in his legal opinion, due to funding the city receives from the FAA, it has an obligation to Southwest.

Gary Kelly
Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines

“Regardless of outside economic factors, is to negotiate in good faith with Southwest to provide reasonable, the emphasis is on the word reasonable, reasonable accommodation to their request for access to Hobby for international service.”

The committee then heard from Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines.

“We chose Houston as our international gateway. We are not out shopping this deal. There is no bake-off. We’re not asking you for economic or marketing incentives. We’re not asking for tax credits or abatements. We are in essence, merely asking you to negotiate with us for an amendment to our use and lease agreement. We’re in essence, asking you for a building permit.”

A study by HAS finds the expansion would create some 10,000 jobs and put $1.6 billion into the local economy each year.

United Airlines questions the study. It hired UH economics professor Dr. Barton Smith as a consultant:

“If new competition comes in, airfares I think in the short run, will come down. Is it sustainable? I don’t think so. Clearly not sustainable at the tune that Southwest Airlines would like to tell you: 50%, 40%, 30% decline. If airfares come down at all at that magnitude, somebody is gonna go out of business. It’s this type of convoluted economics that makes the HAS report unusable.”

United Airlines side
United Airlines

Council is expected to decide on Southwest’s expansion request by the end of the month.


The other meetings scheduled are at:

Doubletree Hotel JFK
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
6- 8 p.m.
15747 JFK Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77032
Presentation by Aviation Director Mario Diaz

Marriott Houston South at Hobby Airport
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
6-8 p.m.
9100 Gulf Freeway
Houston, Texas 77017
Presentation by Aviation Director Mario Diaz

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