HOUSTON — Southwest Airlines officially opened its largest maintenance hangar in the carrier’s network -- right here in Houston.
The company’s CEO, Gary Kelly, says the $125 million facility, which saw its grand opening Wednesday, will make flying out of Hobby Airport more reliable.
The new facility, which replaces the airline’s original hangar from 1988, can fit six 737 airplanes inside and another eight outside.
Kelly cut the ribbon with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Aviation Director Mario Diaz during a media event Wednesday afternoon. They then toured the 140,000 square foot hangar, which will be the new home for the airline’s nearly 400 Technical Operations Employees at Hobby Airport.
Southwest makes up about 90 percent of the flights at Hobby Airport, with nearly 200 per day during peak seasons.
Kelly said they’re making the investment in Houston because they expect its air traffic growth to continue.
“What (the new hangar) helps the Houston passenger (with) especially is the reliability of the schedule,” said Kelly. “So, the more capacity we have here, the more ability we have to get airplanes in and get them out so that the airplane’s ready to start the day on time every morning.”
Kelly also told KHOU the ongoing grounding of the Boeing 737 Max is not impacting current operations but is preventing the airline from growing.
“We’re sort of in suspense,” said Kelly. “We’re dog-paddling, you might say, in a time when we could and want to be growing.”
Kelly said to add flights in Houston, such as a new nonstop to Cozumel in March, Southwest must pull planes from other cities.
“Houston is not seeing any pain from that,” said the CEO.
Kelly said his company is eyeing new destinations in Mexico, Latin America, and Caribbean over the coming ten to 15 years. Long-term, he told reporters he’d like to add flights from Houston to South America.
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