As every Southwest Employee, our Customers, and Houstonians continues to get excited about the opening of the new International Concourse at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston later this year, I thought it might be cool to look back at Hobby’s international history. And yes, it has one—a storied and vibrant one, in fact!
We all know that Hobby was Houston’s first commercial airport, but international service from Hobby has a long history:
Going back to the 1930s and into the days of Juan Trippe, (the “Herb” of the legendary Pan American World Airways), Houston’s Hobby Airport was a significant gateway for Pan Am’s Clippers to Central and South America. DC-4s, DC-6s and DC-7s heading to Mexico City, Merida, Tampico and Guatemala with continuing service to Panama, Bogota, Caracas, and cities further south. Those flights were a daily happening at Hobby in the 40s and 50s. Howard Hughes even landed at Hobby after his round-the-world trip, prompting a three-day celebration at the old Rice Hotel!
1940 Air Terminal (photo from: fly2houston.com)
Entering the Jet Age, in 1961 Pan Am brought Boeing 707’s into HOU to serve the Mexican and Central American markets, connecting Hobby to the rest of the extensive Pan Am Latin American network. Also in the early 1960s, the Europeans arrived in Houston with Air France 707’s flying from Hobby to New York’s Idlewild Airport (now JFK), and then on to Paris (I can’t even imagine a fully-loaded Boeing 707-321 blasting out of Hobby on a hot summer day but they did it!). KLM also arrived in Houston early in the 1960s—(after all, don’t forget it’s Royal Dutch Shell!) giving frequent DC-8-73 service from the Bayou to the canals of Amsterdam via a variety intermediate points like New York, Montreal, and even Halifax. Aeromexico was in the mix with service between Hobby and Mexican destinations like Mexico City, Monterrey, Merida, Tampico, and even Veracruz. Also buzzing in were a number of Latin American carriers that no longer exist. Of course, when Houston’s Bush Intercontinental opened in 1969—all of Houston’s international service moved 45 miles to the north into the pine trees.
Later this year ... SWA will bring the international back to the HOU. After all, Hobby has the history. Hobby was the origin of the very first international flight from the City of Houston. For decades, Hobby carried the flag for Houston’s international air service. Guess who is about to put that flag back on the pole?
In many respects, the official countdown begins next week as Gary and our Board of Directors host our annual meeting of Shareholders in downtown Houston—the first time that’s ever happened outside of Dallas in our history! And very soon, we’ll be announcing the opening date of the terminal facility, when our first flights (and low fares) will make good on the pledge to Free Hobby, a grassroots fight so many Southwest Employees and supporters helped make happen.
New International terminal rendering
The fourth quarter opening will be here before we know it and William P. Hobby Airport will open a BEAUTIFUL new International terminal, with a larger ticket counter, improved parking, Customer security screening, and we will all celebrate that in perfect Southwest Style by LUVing new Customers and LUVing on each other. But just for a second—think about the amazing international history that Hobby Airport has had. Back in the days of propellers and ground-level boarding, Hobby was one of the biggest Latin America embarkation points in the United States. And then think—and get excited—about how Southwest is going to bring the International back to Houston William P. Hobby International Airport. With a fantastic facility, with a great Customer experience, and with something no other airline can ever match.