BROWNSVILLE, Texas – What is happening in Brownsville, the second most historic city in Texas? 

New hotels and restaurants are opening. Downtown is being revitalized. SpaceX is building rockets. Geekdom is partnering with the eBridge Center to grow the entrepreneurial base. And now, Avelo Airlines are offering flights to and from Brownsville to Burbank, California, and Orlando, Florida.

Perceptions are being shattered, said Helen Ramirez, city manager for the City of Brownsville. 

“Yes, we’re a border economy, but we’re new border economy, right? I think we’re dismantling a lot of the perceptions. There’s a lot of great growth here in different industries. And now you have airline growth. We’re a destination,” Ramirez said, proudly.

Asked to elaborate, she said: “I do think downtown Brownsville is booming. There are new restaurants that are coming to downtown, so you’re seeing like a renaissance with that. New hotels are coming online. We will also be hosting the Games of Texas which is 8,000 amateur athletes and their families. That is 24,000 people coming to Brownsville at the end of July. And we will be hosting the games for the next two years.”

Ramirez gave the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service an update on city activity at the conclusion of a news conference held at Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

The news conference was held to announce the arrival of a brand new low-cost carrier in the market, Houston-based Avelo Airlines. The company announced it will be flying non-stop direct from Brownsville to Orlando, Florida, and to Burbank, California, starting May 17. 

Asked how big a deal it was for Brownsville to have landed Avelo, Ramirez said: “It’s huge. it’s just a great moment in our history. Here you have the first airline recruited after the construction of our new 91,000 square-foot airport. It gives testament to that. We have the capacity. We have the leadership to make this happen. And we have Avelo Airlines, which is very entrepreneurial. They decided to start with Brownsville in Texas. They’re headquartered in Texas. So I even like the fact that they’re a local Texas company, betting on Brownsville and our future because they see everything that’s happening.”

Ramirez gave credit to Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez and the city commission. 

“Everything came together very quickly. It was not like we were negotiating for months and months and months. It actually came together quickly, in November and December. We always talk to the airlines, but when they finally get to make that decision or are close to making a decision, things get done quickly because time kills deals.”

Ramirez said the fact that Brownsville is midpoint between the coastal cities of Los Angeles and Orlando is “just a recipe for success.” She said she has family in LA that can benefit.

“I have family in Los Angeles and being able to call my father, you know, who has challenges with mobility, to have a direct flight to visit his grandchildren, or entrepreneurs and businesses that are headquartered in Orlando or are headquartered in Hawthorne, like SpaceX, their family and their employees are also going to be able to to visit one another and have a better quality of life.”

Ramirez said many people in Brownsville may have been put off from visiting California or Florida because of the cost of airline tickets.

“I remember this Christmas, it was almost like $800 a round trip ticket. Giving a choice to our Brownsville community, which has different socio-economic levels, is hugely important. It’s an important goal for the City of Brownsville and for our airport. Also, being the only city in the RGV offering direct flights to Burbank, Los Angeles, and Orlando, it really brings us to an economic advantage.”

Ramirez pointed out that Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport probably only captures one third of the aviation travelers in Brownsville. She said that with the expansion of the airport, that can be addressed.

“We need to capture those other passengers because we’re their closest airport. So, now we will be able to capture all that population. And so what I see is Brownsville, whether it’s restaurants, airlines, companies we are capturing that are deciding to bank on Brownsville because of the great leadership and because of the sustainable economic development, this is a great moment for us.”

Travis Crist, head of marketing for Avelo, explained why his company chose Brownsville and the two coastal destinations it will fly to.

“Avelo is based in Houston and this is our first destination in Texas. So we’re excited about that. We’ve got about 30 cities nationwide. And it’s obviously natural that we would finally end up in Texas and we’re really excited that Brownsville is the first place that we can fly to,” Crist said.

“We will be flying to our two bases. One is in Burbank, Los Angeles’ most convenient airport and Orlando, hitting up Disney World and all that. So we’re really excited. We know that there’s a lot of interest between Brownsville and LA and Orlando for a lot of reasons. including the SpaceX connection. So we’re excited.”

Crist was asked what was different about Avelo.

“What’s different about Avelo is that our slogan and the way we try to operate is to be the airline with service to small, convenient, airports, but with very low fares. Typically airports like Brownsville have service maybe from the mainline airlines, and it’s a good service but it’s pretty expensive and it’s built really for business travelers. We are built for vacation, friends and family and leisure travel.”

Crist added: “It’s a great fit when we’re able to find the cities with a lot of potential. And we think Brownsville is one of those.”

Bryant Walker is assistant city manager and aviation administrator for the City of Brownsville. He said he and his team have been working hard to get new destinations for air travelers.

“We’re going to be starting May 17. We’re going to have twice a week service to both Orlando and Burbank and it’ll be on Wednesdays and on Saturdays, with very competitive fares. I think they said $69 one way to Orlando and $89 one way to Burbank. So, go online and book a ticket,” Walker said.

“The city has been super supportive. They’ve been helpful, providing additional incentives and making sure that the airline understood that the community is behind the service. So, we’re just thrilled to have them here, thrilled to have another opportunity for traveling, another resource for the community. That’s has been our goal the whole time.”

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