United Airlines said its application for seasonal service to Mexico still will leave one available designation for another US carrier to serve the routes, thereby dismissing Southwest Airlines’ letter of support for United’s application.
At issue are two routes to Mexico—Houston-Puerto Vallarta and -San Jose del Cabo—for which United has applied for permission from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin operating Nov. 1. United is applying for the routes with SkyWest, which will replace the ExpressJet regional service that currently holds the designation.
By the terms of the US-Mexico bilateral air services agreement, the two governments can designate a limited number of carriers to serve any given city pair between the two countries. Southwest argued in May that although it does not currently operate these routes, it might do so in the future. Southwest supported United’s application with the proviso that DOT should require United to surrender one of its designations on each route should Southwest—or another US carrier—express an interest in the routes.
In a filing before the DOT, United said Southwest’s request was “without merit.” United argues that even if DOT grants it the route authorities, there will be one available designation on each route, and “Southwest is well aware” of this. “[United and SkyWest] made clear that SkyWest’s United Express service would simply replace the existing ExpressJet United Express service on these routes and that no additional designations would be required.”
United added that Southwest’s request does not apply yet. “Moreover, Southwest has no immediate intent to serve these routes.”
However, Southwest late last month raised concerns about when ExpressJet would return the designation it currently holds and said then the decision was entirely “within United’s discretion.” Although Southwest does not now serve the routes, the carrier said it is likely to be interested “within the next year or so.”