Mexico’s Resort Hotspots Getting a Boost From Southwest’s New LAX Service
Photo courtesy of Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun
Just prior to the June 5 launch of inaugural service to and from Long Beach Airport (LGB) — the carrier’s 98th city served — Southwest Airlines announced its filing of an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to reach even further into Mexico with new service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Plans call for the low fare carrier to provide LAX service with twice daily flights to San Jose del Cabo and Cancun, and one daily flight to Puerto Vallarta beginning Nov. 6, 2016. Flights are contingent on route authority approval that is anticipated to be granted by June 30. Currently, Southwest Airlines serves four Mexican destinations from eight U.S. cities.
READ MORE: The Story Behind Southwest’s Mexico Moves
Southwest has actually asked the DOT for extra-bilateral authority so it can operate the additional flights during an interim period before the liberalized Aviation Agreement between the U.S. and Mexico materializes.
"We've committed aircraft resources to serve these important trans-border routes at the start of the winter season and are asking that Southwest be allowed to add its low-fare, bags fly free, no change fee competition, and legendary customer service to benefit consumers in the U.S. and Mexico," said Gary Kelly, chairman, president and CEO of Southwest Airlines.
Projections from the Campbell-Hill Aviation Group — an independent economic analysis firm that was tapped by Southwest for route impact studies — indicate that Southwest’s competitive stance in the three new LAX-Mexico markets could potentially reduce airfares more than 20 percent below current average fares.
It also projects boosting of total route traffic by more than 500,000 passengers annually, and saving passengers in the neighborhood of $50 million in airfare annually. The carrier’s 2016 capacity (available seat miles) is expected to elevate 5-6 percent above 2015 levels.
Upon approval, flights will be available for booking via southwest.com or 800-I-FLY-SWA.
Before John Huston’s “The Night of the Iguana” premiered in 1964, Puerto Vallarta was a low-key sleepy fishing village on the Pacific Coast where the Mexican states of Jalisco and Nayarit meet. But when Elizabeth Taylor firmly planted herself near the set to keep an eye on the “eye-roving” Richard Burton while he filmed the flick with voluptuous Ava Gardner, publicity swirled. That pair’s torrid affair catapulted Vallarta onto Hollywood’s tourism radar.
“Los Angeles is our original international market,” said Agustin Alvarez, director, Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board. “Puerto Vallarta was placed on the international tourism map by Hollywood, and our relationship with this market continues to this date.”
According to Alvarez, Southwest’s new flight from LAX to Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR) signals the travel industry’s commitment and trust in the destination, its infrastructure and safety. “Southwest’s new flight will increase arrivals to Puerto Vallarta, where we are ready to welcome guests to 22,000 rooms in our hospitality infrastructure — more than a third of them in four-plus star properties,” Alvarez said.
He added that California is Puerto Vallarta’s top U.S. generator of visitors. “In 2015, 30 percent of our U.S. visitors came from California, according to SETUJAL,” he said. “With our hotel occupancy for the first four months of 2016 already five percent above last year, we look forward to a historic year for Puerto Vallarta with visitors from California increasing.”
Marc Murphy, managing director of Riviera Nayarit, agreed. “A new daily non-stop flight from one of the world’s busiest airports will be a welcomed asset to one of Riviera Nayarit’s busiest tourism seasons,” he said. “Southwest Airlines launched flights from Denver, Houston and Orange County last year. The addition of an LAX flight is a clear and pleasant indicator that demand from Southern California to visit our region is rising.”
California has always been one of Riviera Nayarit’s strongest markets due to its proximity, said Murphy. “Our destination’s continued increase in market awareness, especially in California, has surely contributed in global brands launching new developments such as the W Punta de Mita that just opened on June 7, and One&Only Mandarina and the Fairmont Costa Canuva.” The latter two are set to open in late 2018.
On the Caribbean front, tourism industry officials contend that new L.A.-Cancun connectivity will expand tourism and business opportunities as it strengthens ties between California and Mexico. “The Los Angeles area presents a significant demand for travel to Mexico from both the leisure and business travel segments,” said Jesus Almaguer, CEO of the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This new route will provide Angelenos with a new opportunity to travel south and easily connect to the Mexican Caribbean.”
Almaguer commented that as Cancun continues to expand its repertoire with new hotels, restaurants and attractions, the destination’s constant evolution will help solidify its international presence as one of the most popular tourism destinations in the world. “The typical traveler from the L.A. market will be thrilled with the opportunity to come and experience all of these new tourism offerings and more while enjoying the convenience of nonstop service to Cancun,” he said.
“We are always very excited when airlines launch new routes to a beach destination where our Fiesta Americana Resort Collection properties are located,” said Ana Gon, VP of sales and marketing for Fiesta Americana Resort Collection. “We have one resort in Los Cabos, three in Cancun and two in Puerto Vallarta, and are looking forward to welcoming those Southwest passengers to our resorts.”
Gon added that while Cancun has never suffered from U.S. connectivity issues, it’s pleasant to see that Southwest is expanding services to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta that are both popular destinations among West Coast visitors. “Because L.A. is home to thousands of Mexican-Americans and those of Mexican descent, these U.S.-born generations love to stay in Mexico and experience a real Mexican experience while enjoying luxurious accommodations and excellent hospitality,” said Gon. “Fiesta Americana prides itself in being the brand that can offer them the best of this experience and epitomize the spirit of Mexico.”
The Agent’s Edge
Especially for West Coast agents with clients hankering for a Mexico getaway, the new Southwest service opens a world of potential. “California is a market accustomed to the highest quality in products and authentic experiences. Therefore, when it comes to travel, they have similar expectations for their getaways,” said Riviera Nayarit’s Murphy.
Alvarez added, “Los Angelenos are outgoing travelers who enjoy the great outdoors and have a wide range of interests. They also look for new and different activities and an authentic experience. But like most people, they have limited vacation time.”
Alvarez noted that since it’s just a few hours’ flight from LAX, Puerto Vallarta is an ideal short getaway or holiday destination offering a wide range of attractions that include everything from year-round watersports to high-end art galleries, fine dining, shopping and a lively nightlife.
READ MORE: Check Out Southwest's New Shark Week Plane
On the bookings front, Fiesta Americana Resorts is wowing travel professionals with its new agent portal. Available at fiestaamericanaresorts.com/TravelAgents, it features the latest resorts news and other invaluable resources. Fiesta Americana’s exclusive Agent Cash Incentive provides travel agents with direct payment upon booking — an extremely unique aspect since many other hotel companies pay after customers have traveled.
More by Dawna L. Robertson
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