Volaris Prepares For Full Scale US Invasion (and That’s a Good Thing)

If there was any doubt that Mexican airline Volaris had designs on a big US presence, those have been put to rest. After announcing a couple of new routes over the last few months, Volaris has now applied for a slew of new routes covering the country. If you don’t know Volaris, that’s going to change very quickly.

Volaris Charge on US

As of now, Volaris flies to Guadalajara from Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Chicago/Midway, and, starting March 30, Las Vegas. It also flies from LA to Zacatecas, Morelia, and Toluca (Mexico City’s secondary airport). You might remember back in October when Southwest officially launched its partnership with Volaris to feed passengers between the two networks. Now, Volaris is ready to blanket the US with its own flights, happy to feed passengers into the Southwest system. Much of this is thanks to the demise of Mexicana.

Volaris has received approval from Mexico and is now applying for approval from the US to fly the following routes:

  • Chicago to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Zacatecas
  • Dallas/Ft Worth to Mexico City
  • Fresno to Guadalajara
  • LA to Aguascalientes, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Mazatlan, Oaxaca, and Puerto Vallarta
  • Miami to Cancun
  • New York to Cancun
  • Oakland to Leon and Mexico City
  • San Francisco to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta
  • San Jose to Leon
  • Sacramento to Cabo San Lucas, Guadalajara, Leon, and Morelia

See, I told you this was a big deal. But don’t get too excited about booking your next trip on Volaris, because these won’t start up immediately. At least, not all of them will. According to the filing, Volaris will start Fresno to Guadalajara immediately (there’s a lot of visiting family/friends traffic in that market) and those will soon be followed by Chicago to Zacatecas, LA to Aguascalientes, Oakland to Mexico City, Sacramento to Guadalajara, and San Francisco to Guadalajara. For the rest of the routes, service will “begin as warranted by commercial conditions.” I spoke with Volaris Chief Commercial Officer Holger Blankenstein and added that they “are not able to commit to dates on when we will launch some or any of these routes.

The reason Volaris is doing this all right now is because of the way the agreement between Mexico and the US works. The two countries still operate under an old-school bilateral agreement that only allows a certain number of airlines to fly each route. So Volaris has been submitting applications to the Mexican government over time and just received a lump response with approvals for all. Now, Volaris is taking those and asking the US DOT for approval as well. Volaris is stating its intentions and requesting that it be given the authority for one year on all these routes. If it doesn’t start service on all of these within a year, then the availability would just go back into the pool, I would assume.

You’ll notice that a lot of these routes are former Mexicana routes. That currently-dead airline (which continues to float rumors about a comeback some day) left open a lot of vacancies in the bilateral agreement. So Volaris is jumping on them and incorporating them into the airline’s growth strategy. Holger explained,

What we can say is that we have a significant expansion plans. We are growing fast thanks to our aggressive promos, our pre-purchase campaign, good itineraries and our on-time service. We are adding 8 aircraft in 2011, many, but not all, will be dedicated to MEX-US service. Our fleet age is 3.4 years, and currently we have 46 routes covering 25 cities. We are a very young airline that fortunately has had many early successes through a young and innovative workforce and hard work. Our main concern is to be a low-cost airline with a high quality service.

Some of these routes seem like they just want to hold a place in case the airline’s strategy shifts. For example, flying from one of the most expensive airports around, Miami, to Cancun wouldn’t seem to fit a low cost carrier model. But it’s a big route so it can’t hurt to hold a spot before someone else takes the authority. It might be worthwhile.

In the end, this will be a big expansion for Volaris. People were worried that the disappearance of miserable Mexicana would leave a vacuum between the US and Mexico. Instead, we see what we always see. A better airline is stepping into its place very quickly.

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