Monday, December 17, 2007

Houston's new air service to the world

Houston has had a banner few weeks when it comes to new international air service:
  • Emirates started their nonstop service to Dubai, a major hub between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. (archive link to the article - thanks Kevin and Dwight)
  • Qatar Airways said they will start service to Doha in mid-2008, another hub developing along the same lines as Emirates in Dubai.
  • Singapore Airlines announced nonstop service to Moscow, continuing on to Singapore. We are their fourth U.S. gateway city, after NYC, SF, and LA. It's quite surprising that we get service before Chicago, which is a major hub for their Star Alliance partner United.
  • Not wanting to be left out, Continental suggested potential new destinations once they get their 787s starting in 2009: Dubai, Madrid, and either Rome or Milan. They also announced twice/daily service to London Heathrow starting in March, which is generally considered the most important airport in the world, not just for the destination itself, but for all of the the potential connections to other cities of the world.
These flights are notable not just for their destinations, but the airlines involved are some of the highest-rated in the world for the quality of their service - certainly a bonus. Of course, most of these flights are driven by the booming global energy industry.

For what it's worth, IMHO, I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the potential Continental destinations. Emirates already has Dubai and its connections along with amazing cabins and service - why not just extend the code-share? The NYT just had a feature on the decline/malaise of Italy. Even if it is a Skyteam partner with two hubs, Alitalia is imploding. A bunch of tourist traffic and few new connections that aren't already served via Amsterdam or Paris? I can see the Spanish/Latin America connections from Madrid, but it seems American Airlines at both DFW and Miami would get most of that traffic because of the OneWorld alliance with Iberia.

As far as new service, by far the best new addition we could get would be Seoul. I know there's probably not a lot of direct business (or energy traffic), but there could be a lot of Skyteam-partner Korean Air connecting traffic from inland China to all over Latin America, where they're building all sorts of commodity business relationships (China's appetite for commodities is insatiable). And it would give Houston one-hop access into many of the major cities of China. Check out their China coverage here.

My second choice would be Continental feeding eastern U.S. Skyteam traffic on a one-hopper through Auckland, NZ to Sydney, but I know that's a thinner route. Santiago, Chile would also be nice to finish out the South America network of major cities, but I imagine that's a pretty thin route too.

I'd like to wrap up with some excerpts from the Singapore Air press release, because it's just interesting to read how the international community thinks of us:
Houston – the fourth largest city in America and economic centre of the southern state of Texas (Dallas must love reading that) – will join the Singapore Airlines network from 20 March 2008, with the commencement of a four-times-weekly service.

“We’ve observed a steadily building demand for air services between Singapore and Houston, as well as the surrounding regions. This service will open the first direct flights between Texas and Singapore, and also between Texas and Moscow. Houston will also act as a gateway for the Southern USA to Singapore and Southeast Asia,” Mr Huang said.

Houston is the city centre of a commercial region, home to around 5.5 million people. Its industries include oil and gas, aeronautical and space, medical research and healthcare, technology, manufacturing and shipping. The region includes America’s largest shipping port by international tonnage.

The economy of the Houston region is one of America’s largest; indeed, it is larger than all but 22 nations.

Its climate is subtropical, with mild winters. Summers are warm and humid, very much like Singapore, and the city’s claim is similar to Singapore’s: everything is air-conditioned!

Among its key attractions are the Lyndon B Johnson Space Centre, featuring exhibits of lunar materials and the space shuttle program. NASA’s Mission Control Centre, from which all its space operations are controlled, is in Houston.

The Texas Medical Centre contains the world’s largest concentration of healthcare and medical research institutions. The Centre includes 13 hospitals and numerous schools of medicine, nursing and dentistry. The city also has some 55 universities, colleges and academic research institutions.

The city maintains teams that compete in all major national professional sports. Its arts and culture facilities are extensive and vibrant, building on the city’s broadly international population, featuring Hispanic, Mexican (Hmmm... Hispanic doesn't include Mexican?), Chinese, Vietnamese and Pacific Islander populations.

Nice. A world-class city needs world-class connections to the world, right?

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At 10:28 PM, December 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Torry, the Greater Houston P'nership and, uhmm, the Chronicle could learn a thing or two from Singapore Airline's press release about Houston.

I rarely if ever see our city so positively portrayed by our major press, mayoral, council or booster institutions.

Wake up Houston, we're a POWERHOUSE BABY! Yes!!!

Mike M.

At 11:10 AM, December 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For what it's worth, IMHO, I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the potential Continental destinations. Emirates already has Dubai and its connections along with amazing cabins and service - why not just extend the code-share?"

In the end this is a business and I think Continental will offer some competition for Emirates Air. Emirates is high end transportation (which is most customers going to Dubai from Houston), but Continental will offer a cheaper flight. It's still a couple of thousand dollars to fly there.

Overall, it's nice to see what these other airlines think of Houston. It also resonates what their customers and potential future customers may think of Houston.

At 3:23 AM, December 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget City Star's nonstop Houston - Aberdeen service beginning next month.

Also, don't sell short the potential of nonstop Houston - Madrid link. Iberia's OneWorld alliance with American notwithstanding, Continental serves far more Latin American destinations from IAH than American does out of DFW (it ain't even close), and that might account for something in terms of travel patterns between Latin America and Spain.

Continental has a track record of being a successful airline. I'll trust that their route analysts know what they're doing as they research potential new connections between Houston and the rest of the world.

At 7:46 AM, December 19, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I agree we have better connections than DFW, but that's because AA prefers to route most of those connections through Miami, which also makes far more sense for most Latin America connections from Madrid than either DFW or IAH does. The exception would be cities in northern Mexico.

At 10:57 AM, December 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The drawback to Miami is capacity. Miami International is very similar to LAX (but smaller) in being trapped. It doesn't have much room for expansion (runway and terminal). This is the reason the Fort Lauderdale International Airport has grown so much. IAH doesn't have a capacity problem in the foreseeable future.

At 10:47 PM, January 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

City Star didn't work.

The airline never got a USDOT permit.

At 1:41 PM, June 15, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Madrid is the renewable energy capital of Europe! Many of these comapanies have their US HQ in Houston and European HQ in Madrid... my company sends people back and forth all the time.. a direct flight would be great... unfortunately it seems this never happened..


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