SAN ANTONIO — Dallas-based Southwest Airlines will launch its first international flight from San Antonio on Sunday with its San Antonio-Mexico City nonstop daily service, an airline spokesman said Tuesday.
Southwest’s new service will replace the same route previously operated by Southwest subsidiary AirTran Airways, which is being phased out of existence as Southwest expands its international route map, said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins.
AirTran’s San Antonio-Mexico City flights on Saturday will be the last for AirTran at San Antonio International Airport. “They’re gone” after Saturday, said Barbara Prossen, the city Aviation Department’s community relations and marketing director.
AirTran also had provided seasonal service on the San Antonio-Cancun route, from mid-May to August this year.
Southwest will fly, like AirTran did, a Boeing 737-700 aircraft for the San Antonio-Mexico nonstop, but the Southwest seating configuration will allow for six more passengers for a capacity of 143.
Southwest will have one departure at 11:45 a.m. and one arrival at 6:15 p.m. daily to and from Mexico City, similar to AirTran’s schedule.
Under a U.S.-Mexico air service agreement, only two U.S. and two Mexican carriers can serve the San Antonio-Mexico City route. Southwest, taking over from AirTran, will remain the only U.S. carrier on the route, along with Mexican carriers AeroMexico and Interjet.
“We’re very happy to have the (Southwest) service,” Prossen said. “We’ll have three airlines flying to Mexico City.”
Southwest flies the most passengers into and out of San Antonio of any airline, with a 41 percent market share, Prossen said.
Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran in 2011 and began flying international routes on July 1, and has expanded international routes since then.
“We have many (international) destinations on our radar but not on our map yet,” Hawkins said. Southwest books reservations on routes six months in advance and will not announce any further Mexico destinations from San Antonio before mid-November, Hawkins explained.
“But I can say that where AirTran flew on less-than-a-daily basis, as we come in, we’ll be flying daily,” he said.
The inaugural flight Sunday will carry a San Antonio trade mission to Mexico City, an annual trip organized by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The trade mission will return on Tuesday.
A ceremony for the first Southwest departure to Mexico City at San Antonio International Airport will include a serenade by an all-female mariachi band, Mariachi Flor de Jalisco, and featuring Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, decorations and refreshments, including pan de muerto, pan dulce, Mexican hot chocolate, Mexican coffee and aguas frescas.
By David Hendricks
October 28, 2014