An increasing number of airlines based in the United States are making it their goal to expand travel to the Latin American and Caribbean regions. According to a CNN Money article, the strength of the United States dollar in combination with the growth of a middle class in Latin America are helping to promote travel between the two regions.
Last Thursday, Southwest Airlines unveiled the opening of its new international hub located in Houston. By the end of this year, the airline plans to be offering travel to twelve destinations, which is exactly twice as much as it offers currently. In addition, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines has stated that the airline plans to add even more destination offerings n 2016.
Southwest is joining several other United States airlines in expanding their destination lists to include locations in Latin America and the Caribbean, some of these including JetBlue and Spirit Airlines. JetBlue has managed to double the amount of destinations it travels to in this region since the end of 2010, increasing to 35 from 19. Spirit Airlines has plans to increase the number of flights available to Latin America this year.
While one might assume that the beautiful landscape and beaches of many Latin American countries are the root of this trend of expansion by United States airlines, there are more factors at play than just the promotion of tourism. For many airlines, the fact that Latin America offers destinations of interest that are closer than those in Europe, Asia and Africa has the advantage of eliminating the need to purchase larger aircraft, which can travel longer distances to these locations.
As mentioned, the growing Latin American middle class is another important factor. During the 2000s, the middle class in Latin America grew by fifty percent, meaning that millions of people are ascending from the category of poverty throughout the region. According to airline experts, Latin Americans want to spend their surplus cash on travel to the United States. Catalina Breton, who is the director of international planning with JetBlue says that business from Latin America accounts for a third of the airline’s overall revenue.
They want to fly to the United States .. that’s the aspiration for every Latin American.
For American travelers, the expansion of domestic airlines into Latin America could not have been timed any better. In countries like Colombia, Peru and Mexico, Americans will get a lot more value for their dollars. The currencies of these countries have fallen against the dollar as Brazil, the largest player in the Latin American economy is making its way through a recession.
Even so, as competition between United States airlines continues to build domestically, many airlines feel that the best thing to do is bet on international growth.