MIAMI — Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris (Y4) continues to build up its presence in the United States market. On February 1st, the airline switched its South Florida gateway from Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL/KFLL) to Miami International Airport (MIA/KMIA) with nonstop service to Mexico City and Guadalajara, in an effort to consolidate its successful ultra low-fare trans-border strategy which has allowed Volaris to achieve one of the largest growth rates in the market, increasing from just two destinations in the United States in 2009, to 25 in 2017.
With 126 passengers onboard, flight VOI853 from Guadalajara touched down at Miami International at 15:34 local time, where a delay caused by foggy conditions upon departure did not stop the fiesta celebrating the first flight. Live mariachi, raffles, gifts, and a great ambiance at 33,000ft extended the fanfare to the skies, a traditional event at every Volaris inaugural flight.
The bustling mariachi music did not stop once on the ground, where passengers awaiting the outbound inaugural back to Guadalajara were able to enjoy a variety of Mexican-inspired flavors such as burritos, churros, hot chocolate, and a dulce de leche celebratory cake.
The podium was taken by Miami-Dade Aviation Department Deputy Director Ken Pyatt, who acclaimed the launch of Miami International Airport’s 6th destination in Mexico, with Volaris being the airport’s overall 108th operating carrier —more than any other airport in the United States — and its 8th low-cost carrier, as well as being the first airline launch of the year.
Following Mr. Pyatt, Volaris’ Director of Market Development, Miguel Aguíñiga, took the podium welcoming everyone to the inaugural flight from Miami to Guadalajara and highlighting the strategic importance of adding Miami to their international network, being one of the most important U.S. markets from Mexico.
Subsequently, Mr. Aguíñiga, joined by representatives from both Guadalajara and Mexico’s tourism chambers as well as the outbound flight’s crew, presented Mr. Pyatt and other Miami representatives with a commemorative plaque celebrating the launch as well as scale aircraft models, which was followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony before commencing the boarding process.
First announced in October 2016, The Guadalajara-Miami-Guadalajara flights will operate four times a week, with departures every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Mexico City-Miami-Mexico City, on the other hand, will operate once per day. Both flights will initially be operated by the carrier’s 178-seater Airbus A320 aircraft.
Starting April 3rd, 2017, however, the Mexico City route will be upgauged to the Airbus A321 with a capacity of 230 passengers, marking a significant increase in daily seats to Miami.
Volaris’ market strategy focuses on capturing the valuable yet price-sensitive VFR (visiting friends and family) and leisure traffic. South Florida provides a healthy flow of both, fueled by a large Mexican-American diaspora residing in the area and an increasing leisure demand from Mexican residents seeking to enjoy South Florida’s tourist attractions, shopping opportunities, and cruise ship departures, with Miami being considered the cruise ship capital of the world.
Despite most low-cost carriers finding Fort Lauderdale International Airport to be more attractive due to its overall lower operational costs over Miami International Airport, Volaris has opted to switch to Miami as its South Florida gateway as part of its consolidation and growth strategy in the State.
‘We have noticed a trend of growth from the Mexican community concentrated around the Miami area, as well as an increase in both business and tourism exchanges with Miami’, mentions Mr. Aguíñiga regarding the airline’s decision to switch airports.
While the Fort Lauderdale area might be more attractive to leisure-oriented traffic coming from other parts of the United States and Canada, the Mexican bulk of demand has been traditionally focused around Miami itself, prompting Volaris to shift its South Florida strategy to better cater the existing and increasing demand.
While potential future growth is being considered for Miami, at the moment the airline does not contemplate a return to Fort Lauderdale in order to serve both South Floridian airports simultaneously, similar to its operational strategy in the Chicago area where Volaris flies to both O’Hare and Midway airports to cater the extensive Mexican-American community in the State of Illinois. ‘In Florida, for the time being, our strategy will continue to focus on Miami’, he remarks
In 2016, the airline transported over 180,000 passengers between Mexico and Florida in over 1500 operations thorough the year. In addition to South Florida, Volaris also serves Orlando from both Mexico City and Guadalajara.
The 2017 North American growth strategy for Volaris, greatly fueled by the open-skies agreement implemented between Mexico and the United States in late 2016 and despite diplomatic tensions between the two countries currently on the rise since the new US administration took over, is not limited to South Florida. This year, the airline will also launch service from Mexico City to New York JFK and Houston, and from Guadalajara to Milwaukee.
In addition, Volaris has recently started strengthening its Central American growth by launching its new subsidiary Volaris Costa Rica, based at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose, with flights to Guatemala and soon adding service to El Salvador and Nicaragua. ‘This helps us generate a multi-destination strategy within Central America’, concludes Aguíñiga, highlighting the strategic and competitive importance of this market, where Volaris pioneers bringing the low-cost model for the first time.