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VOL. 129 | NO. 244 | Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Lance Wiedower

Southwest Could Offer International Hope

By Lance Wiedower

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It’s hard enough getting a direct flight to a domestic destination out of Memphis International Airport these days. And if looking at an international city, just getting a convenient connecting flight can be a headache.

The recent news that Southwest Airlines is seeking approval for international flights out of Houston Hobby is good for Mid-South flyers, and might be another glimmer of hope for the long-term prospect of more options from Memphis.

Southwest Airlines announced on Dec. 11 that it had filed to fly from its new international facility under construction at Houston Hobby to four destinations in Mexico in addition to Costa Rica and Belize. If approved, the international service would begin in October 2015.

The added flights will connect Houston to Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos, Mexico; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Belize City, Belize.

If approved, the Belize flight will be the first to that country for Southwest. It’s all made possible by the construction of a $156 million, five-gate international concourse being added to Houston Hobby.

What it means for Memphis passengers is that with two daily flights Southwest now flies between Memphis International and Houston Hobby, it will get much easier to connect to these unique destinations.

Speaking from experience of flying to Puerto Vallarta this year, it was a big expense. The flight on United cost north of $1,000, making Puerto Vallarta cost prohibitive for many Memphis travelers.

Just because a flight is through Southwest Airlines doesn’t guarantee it will be for the budget-minded. But with a simple connection in Houston, the Southwest flight would be another viable option that opens up more unique destinations – like Puerto Vallarta – to Memphis travelers.

The news of another option to get to Cancun, I’m sure, will be welcome. Cancun is a popular destination of choice for Mid-South travelers looking for a tropical getaway.

I considered a visit there earlier this fall for a writer’s conference, but the need for two connections meant I would have spent the better part of a day to get to Cancun. No thanks.

Sometimes there are direct flights out of Memphis International to Cancun; the latest, actually, was a charter service. Vacation Express flew Memphis to Cancun from May through August and then switched the service to the Bahamas until October.

Delta Airlines will begin weekly Cancun flights from Memphis International on Dec. 20 and operate them until Jan. 10. The service will pick back up Feb. 14 and run through Aug. 14. So that’s good news.

But improving air service for Mid-South passengers isn’t just about providing direct service to more destinations. For me, it’s about having options.

Assuming Southwest gets approval for these flight additions out of Houston Hobby, it isn’t going to necessarily make life easier if you want to fly from Memphis International to Cancun. But what it does provide is another choice in how you get there. The more options the better the experience tends to be.

I’d love to travel to Mexico City to experience its great food scene, or the eco-tourism hotspot that is Costa Rica. Southwest Airlines might just make those goals more attainable now.

Managing editor Lance Wiedower’s column appears every other Tuesday in The Daily News and The Memphis News. For more travel inspiration, read his blog at tripsbylance.com or follow him on Twitter at @tripsbylance.

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