An aggressively expanding low-cost Mexican airline has received permission from the U.S. government to fly from Orange County to three destinations in Mexico.
Interjet originally hoped to begin flying Sept. 14, but has pushed plans back to October, according to John Wayne Airport officials.
The budget Mexican carrier plans to fly from John Wayne Airport to Guadalajara, a new destination for Orange County travelers. It also has permission to fly to Mexico City and Cabo San Lucas, two destinations that are already served by Air Tran, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.
No schedules or fare prices are yet available. Interjet officials could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
Courtney Wiercioch, deputy airport director for public affairs at John Wayne Airport, said there were several steps that need to be taken before the service would become official. Interjet will fly an Airbus A320 to John Wayne Airport to see if it qualifies for the airport’s stringent noise abatement limits. A test is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 4. A proposed lease will go to the Board of Supervisors, probably at the Sept. 11 meeting. The airline would have to negotiate use of the Customs and Border Protection facilities. If everything goes smoothly, service could begin soon after.
“We’ve got a lot to do in a short period of time, but it is exciting,” Wiercioch said. “We hope to be able to check off all the boxes pretty quickly.”
Soon after opening the airport’s new facilities in Terminal C last fall, the Board of Supervisors approved incentive packages to airlines that would provide service to the first three international destinations that would use the facilities (WestJet’s flights from Canada clear customs and immigration before departure from Canada).
Air Tran received the incentive package for its service to Los Cabos and Mexico City. Interjet has applied for – and would receive – the third and last package for its Guadalajara service. The package includes a $300,000 credit toward rent at the airport and a guaranteed large jet (Class A) departure and arrival slot.
Wiercioch said that negotiations were ongoing, but that Interjet would likely have its ticketing operation in Terminal B.
Interjet proposes daily service for Guadalajara and Mexico City. Though it has received approval for Los Cabos service, it has not indicated to John Wayne Airport officials the frequency of flights or when the service might begin.
Aviation Week reported Wednesday that Interjet is now Mexico’s largest airline in terms of number of passengers boarding planes, though Aeromexico has a more extensive route structure. Along with low-cost carrier Volaris (a partner of Southwest), Interjet has moved rapidly to fill the void left by the August 2010 collapse of Mexicana Airlines.
Interjet’s enplanements were up 58% in 2011 over the previous year, Aviation Week reported. Volaris showed a 27 percent increase. Aeromexico was up 19 percent. The new Orange County service was part of a package of new routes announced this week by the airline. It also plans to fly from Mexico City’s secondary airport, Toluca, to Chicago, Houston and Las Vegas.
Wiercioch said the arrival of competition on the Los Cabos and Mexico City routes shows that there appears to be good demand for those flights out of Orange County.