MIAMI — Southwest Airlines will launch Saturday-only nonstop service between Aruba and Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport in March 2015, beginning international service from its Houston hub more than six months ahead of the scheduled opening of Hobby’s new international terminal in the fourth quarter of 2015. The new service to Aruba will begin March 7, 2015, replacing service by Southwest to Atlanta, which will end on March 1, 2015. Schedules for the new flight are as follow:
WN 2228 ~~ HOU – AUA ~~ D: 1050 A: 1700 ~~ 6
WN 2207 ~~ AUA – HOU ~~ D: 1230 A: 1630 ~~ 6
Southwest is able to launch international service from Houston Hobby prior to the opening of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facilities because Aruba is one of fifteen international airports with United States Border Preclearance. Preclearance allows customers to pass through immigration at their point of departure, making the actual flight and arrival at the US destination airport akin to a domestic flight. Thus, on the outbound flight, passengers will go through immigration in Aruba upon arrival, while on the return, they will clear immigration in Aruba again, and arrive in Houston as domestic passengers.
Southwest is building a five gate international terminal at Houston Hobby with a price tag of $156 million dollars, which will allow it launch international services from the rapidly growing Houston market with about 25-30 flights per day. The Dallas-based airline has already signaled its intentions to launch service to Mexico City, but Aruba will be its first international destination from the airport. Houston Hobby is Southwest’s sixth largest hub, with up to 170 peak-day departures, and will offer strong connectivity for travel to Aruba, which is not a massive origin and destination (O&D) market for Houston. Southwest will face competition from full service carrier United Airlines, who offers seasonal nonstop service to Aruba from nearby George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Southwest also serves Aruba from Orlando and Baltimore/Washington, with daily service from the former and Saturday-only service from the latter. All Southwest service to Aruba is year-round.