Within minutes of the Houston City Council approving an international terminal plan for Houston Hobby Airport (HOU) requested by Southwest Airlines, United Airlines announced laying off 1,300 employees at cross-town Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and cancellation of the planned IAH-Auckland, New Zealand, Boeing 787 service.
We think UAL’s using Southwest and the City Council’s action to cover up a decision it likely already made, due to the continued weak economy and questionable viability of the New Zealand service. The Southwest/HOU plan is three years in the future–and UAL is cutting employees today and canceling service that Southwest isn’t remotely going to threaten.
It doesn’t pass the sniff test.
We’ve heard the “sky is falling” refrain before. Southwest, American Airlines, the cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth and the D/FW Airport board went to war over Southwest’s desire to do away with the so-called Wright Amendment, which limited service from Dallas Love Field to Texas and the adjacent states. American, the cities and D/FW shrilly contended the commercial viability of D/FW was at stake.
The Wright Amendment was modified to permit one-stop service beyond the five states immediately and to phase out this restriction several years later (2014, if we recall correctly). Lo and behold, the sky didn’t fall in. D/FW is doing fine. (American finally succumbed to Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but for reasons unrelated to Love Field.)
Chicago Midway International Airport transitioned from a purely domestic airport to one including limited international service (hence the adoption of “International” in the name). This wasn’t even a blip on Chicago O’Hare’s service, where United is the largest airline by airport market share.
UAL’s sky-is-falling hand-wringing over the HOU issue is pure poppycock.