What's next in international flights from HoustonIn addition to Houston, I'm also an amateur follower of the airline industry. Today I thought I'd share a few thoughts on likely future long-haul destinations from Houston as a followup to my earlier post on international flight growth. Continental recently announced a new flight to Tikal/Flores, Guatemala, and their latest company profile says they now have 702 daily flights to 179 nonstop destinations from Houston (cool route maps), which gives them fair claim to the second-best hub in the country after Delta/Atlanta (1000+flights/180+destinations).
The trigger for this post was a New York Times profile of Emirates, which is the hot new high-growth international airline hubbing out of Dubai. They're growing like crazy, with Singapore Airlines service levels and a great central location between Europe, Asia, and Africa. An article excerpt:
"Emirates planned to start nonstop service to San Francisco and Houston this year, but that has been delayed because of the turmoil in oil prices. This year, he said, the airline will concentrate more on its service between New York and Dubai, probably adding a second daily flight."Obviously, the oil and gas industry here is the pull to offer Houston service. It would offer great connections throughout the Middle East, southeastern Africa, Pakistan and India for Houston fliers. And a little piece of non-intuitive trivia for those looking at a flat map: the shortest nonstop "great circle" route from Houston to Dubai goes north over Greenland, Finland, and almost directly over Moscow.
Far and away the most important new international destination that Houston needs is London Heathrow, which is the busiest international connecting hub in the world. Because of current treaty limitations, all Houston-London flights have to go to Gatwick instead of Heathrow - which is fine if you're just going to London, but not very helpful if you want to connect to the rest of the world. British Airways can get you to Heathrow from Houston without changing planes, but you're stuck with an hour and a half stopover in Chicago. There are recent ongoing negotiations between the EU and US on a new treaty, so there's hope this restriction will be lifted in the next few years. Once Heathrow is added, Houston will have connections to the "Big 4" hubs of Europe: London Heathrow, Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.
The next highest priority would be a flight to Seoul (ideally Continental, but possibly Korean Air) with connections on partner Korean Air to the rest of Asia, esp. China. A lot of Asia can currently be reached from Houston via Continental's Tokyo flight followed by connections on Northwest (which has a hub at Tokyo Narita), but a whole lot more destinations would open up with a Seoul flight (route map p.68).
To round out its Latin America service, at some point we'll see Continental add Houston flights to Buenos Aires/Argentina and Santiago/Chile.
Finally, I'd really like to see Continental establish Houston as the SkyTeam alliance gateway to Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), with flights to Auckland, Sydney, and maybe even continuing on to Melbourne. Most loyal fliers of Continental, Northwest, and Delta are in the eastern half of the US, which routes very well through Houston to ANZ. This is more of a long shot than the other destinations because of the low populations and thin traffic, but the newer, smaller ultra-long-range Boeing aircraft make it possible. They'd be very long flights, but to very cool destinations.