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United to Drop Un-Launched Houston – Auckland Because Southwest Will Fly to Mexico (?)

In a memo this week, United Airlines told employees that it will not launch its planned Houston – Auckland service because Southwest Airlines has been permitted to start Mexico flights from Houston Hobby Airport.

I know, that makes no sense. Follow me on this: Continental originally announced this route as a way of trying to convince the government that its merger with United would bring new service to airports, not the reduction in service that many feared would be the result of the merger. It felt like a suspicious choice to me — that is was being used to make a point, not because they would ever actually fly Houston – Auckland.

The route was, again, used as a pawn, this time to prove to city officials in Houston that if they permitted Southwest to fly to Mexico from Houston Hobby, that it would lead to a reduction in flights from Houston Bush Intercontinental.

A few days ago Southwest was granted the right to fly internationally from Hobby and, lo-and-behold, United pulled the route they were never going to fly in the first place and, for good measure, announced they would cut 1,300 jobs in Houston. Said United CEO Jeff Smisek, “Unfortunately, the city of Houston will suffer the consequences of this decision for decades to come….you f***ed with the wrong Marine!” (Oh that’s right, Colonel Jessep said that in a Few Good Men, my bad…)

Don’t bother following the logic on that.

Just know that Continental made a big show of announcing new routes from Houston prior to the merger to provide that service reductions and job loss were not going to result from the merger. Yet, they’ve chosen to do just that.

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  1. There’s a flyertalk discussion of this, but I thought CO announced IAH-AKL service before the merger. It was supposed to coincide with CO’s acquisition of 787s, which has been long delayed.

    This always seemed like a marginal route, especially with sky-high oil prices.

    I agree, though, that UA’s hissy-fit over the approval of WN’s new service at HOU makes little logical sense.

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