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Southwest Airlines Celebrates 40 Years
at Hobby Airport

November 28, 2011

  © Houston Airport System
  Southwest Airlines has been operating at William P. Hobby Airport for four decades.
Southwest Airlines is celebrating 40 years of flight operations at William P. Hobby Airport.

Houston’s largest low-cost carrier conducted its first flight at Hobby Airport on November 14, 1971 and celebrated the milestone 40 years later with music, pastries and free giveaway items.

Over the past four decades, Southwest Airlines has become the dominant carrier at Hobby Airport, accounting for more than 87 percent of the overall passenger traffic recorded in 2010.

“Southwest Airlines is a terrific partner for us at Hobby Airport,” says Hobby Airport general manager Perry J. Miller. “They not only have a positive impact in keeping fares low but they also bring a commitment to customer service that fits in perfectly with the overall mindset and philosophy at Hobby Airport.”

Southwest Airlines began flight operations in Houston prior to the November 1971 takeoff at Hobby Airport, flying for a brief period at the city’s newer facility, Houston Intercontinental Airport. But the low cost carrier was facing tough competition from rival carriers such as Braniff and Texas International.

Realizing that the city’s previous airport facility, Houston Municipal Airport, was sitting largely vacant, leaders with Southwest Airlines and the City of Houston devised a plan to move half of the airlines’ flight operations south of downtown to the facility which would later be named William P. Hobby Airport.

The carrier continued with this “split location” business approach until May 1972, when all flights were moved to their present day location. At that time, Southwest Airlines was flying to only three cities, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

The carrier had only four airplanes in operation and less than 200 employees within the entire company. But in the four decades that would follow, the carrier would experience dramatic growth in all measureable areas. Southwest Airlines currently operates 550 Boeing 737 aircraft, flying between 72 different cities.  It is now the nation’s largest U.S. carrier based on domestic passenger totals, with more than 3,400 flights flying coast to coast.

“The partnership between Hobby Airport and Southwest Airlines continues to grow and strengthen,” Miller says. “Both sides are extremely excited about the possibilities and opportunities we expect to see unfold in the near future.”
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