OK, maybe calling it an alliance is a stretch, but Southwest is definitely making a push to add more options for their customers these days. First it was the WestJet partnership announced earlier this summer and now a similar deal has been signed with Mexico’s Volaris.
Volaris has their primary hub at Mexico City’s Toluca airport (TLC) rather than Benito Juárez (MEX) which is where most flights to the region operate out of. This would seem to be consistent with Southwest’s approach of operating out of smaller airports in major metropolitan areas (Oakland and Chicago-Midway come to mind).
The deal will depend on Volaris starting operations across the border into the United States, where they will be able to meet up with Southwest’s routes and passengers. It does not appear that Southwest has any intention of flying to Mexico, just like they will not be flying to Canada as part of the WestJet deal. Looking at the distances involved, it seems that getting from the current Volaris hub up to any city where Southwest has a decent feed would be a pretty long flight (2+ hours), much longer than what Volaris operates these days. That will add some interesting factors to the route planning and operational issues of such an arrangement. There’s also a chance that Volaris will open another hub closer to the USA from where they can link to more cities in the USA, but it is hard to know at this point.
One major issue the partnership faces is that they will need to operate from airports that offer immigration and customs facilities. Those are somewhat limited, particularly at airports that Southwest has high-frequency operations.
Volaris is expected to begin operations to the USA in Spring ‘09 with code-shares established in ‘10, so there is still plenty of time for everything to work out. In the mean time, I would expect to hear much more from Southwest as they continue to expand their reach and partnerships.
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