HARLINGEN, RGV – Valley International Airport will soon be just one stop away from major European destinations such as Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, London, Paris, and Rome.
That is because American Airlines is starting direct flights from Harlingen to its major hub, Dallas-Fort Worth. American has direct flights from DFW to a number of top European cities. The three-times-a-day Harlingen to DFW service starts March 3.
“We are excited to be back in Harlingen. The advanced bookings look great,” said Dale Morris, a senior consultant for special projects and government affairs at American Airlines.
Morris paid a visit to Harlingen on Wednesday to see the growth of the city and the recent renovation that has taken place at Valley International Airport (VIA). “The welcome I have received has been phenomenal. We cannot wait to get to started,” Morris said.
Morris was invited to lunch at Frankie Flav’z in downtown Harlingen by Mayor Chris Boswell and other city leaders.
“We are excited about adding more air services out of Harlingen. It is a great fit for Harlingen and a great fit for American Airlines,” Boswell told the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM.
“Mr. Morris said he is very pleased with everything he has seen about the growth in our community. We are proud of all of our airlines, every single one of them. It sure is nice to have American back in Harlingen. We expect them to be very successful.”
In a Facebook livestream with the Rio Grande Guardian, Morris explained that American Airlines used to fly out of Harlingen, back in the pre-9/11 days. “We are back and looking forward to great things,” he said.
A 30-year veteran of the airline industry, with years of experience in corporate and commercial sales for American, Morris has known VIA Aviation Director Marv Easterly for more than two decades. Morris said Easterly was integral to bringing American Airlines to VIA. “Marv is a dear friend. I have known him since his days at Midland-Odessa Airport. He has been very supportive,” Morris said.
Asked about American Airlines, Morris said it is one of three legacy carriers in the United States and is headquartered at Dallas-Fort Worth. He said American has over 800 departures daily from DFW, accounting for 86 percent of all traffic at DFW.
An information sheet provided by American Airlines stated that domestic additions complement 15 new regional gates at the DFW Terminal E satellite that are scheduled to be completed in summer 2019. Talking points provided by American about the DFW hug growth include:
- American will grow DFW operations from approximately 800 peak daily departures to approximately 900 peak daily departures by summer 2019.
- American will convert nine mainline gates to 15 regional gates in the Terminal E satellite. The gates will help to support an additional 100 regional flights per day.
- Future investments at DFW will allow American to continue to meet flight demands and grow its mainline and regional operation to improve both the customer and team member experience.
American Airlines had 57 million passengers in 2017, with 200-plus destinations to 30 countries. It has about 18,000 locally based employees, including those working with Envoy.
Asked about the Rio Grande Valley’s potential for growth, Morris said: “The Valley has close to 2.2 or 2.3 million people. Our network planning people look at this market as an opportunity. There is growth spurt happening in the Rio Grande Valley and we want to capitalize on that.”
As for Harlingen, Morris said: “Valley International Airport has a lot of opportunity, it is a great airport with great infrastructure, they do a good job from a fiscal standpoint, controlling costs, being responsible. You want to be in airports like that.”
Morris noted that there is a current shortage of pilots and airlines in his industry. “For a city to be able to come forward and get a service in this economic climate, it really speaks well for Harlingen and the whole Rio Grande Valley.”
Asked about his meeting with Mayor Boswell and other city leaders, Morris said: “When you meet with the mayor, with city council and the economic development corporation, you look for synergy. Believe me, there are some cities you go into and you do not have that synergy. At today’s luncheon we had business, the city, the chamber. That shows we want you here and we are glad you are here. Partnership, that is what makes these things a success. We have a tremendous partnership, a very sold partnership, with the mayor and Marv, who was integral to making this happen.”
Asked what type of passengers will use the Harlingen-DFW service, Morris said it will be a mixture of business and leisure. He predicted companies will set up businesses and satellite offices in Harlingen as a result of having direct flights to DFW.
“I think most of the passengers will be business-oriented. But, I think you are going find a heavy mixture of leisure as well. There is a great leisure market with South Padre Island. South Padre Island is a wonderful recreation area, to go see the dolphins.”
On his tour of Harlingen, Morris got to see the new convention center that is slated to open in May, a hotel that is going up next to it, and Texas State Technical College. He said there are some programs at TSTC that American Airlines may be interested in.
Asked for his thoughts on Morris’ visit, VIA’s Esterly said: “We could not be more excited to be welcoming American Airlines. We are committed to controlling costs, that we do not take on unnecessary debt and to make sure they are profitable. We are here for two reasons, two make sure the airlines are profitable and make sure we have the best airline service for the people of the Rio Grande Valley.”
Esterly added: “When you see airlines coming into our markets and adding capacity in our market, that is a really good indication of the viability and the robustness of the economic development that is going on in the Rio Grande Valley. Airlines are numbers-driven and they are seeing the numbers. American Airlines coming to Harlingen is a very good indication that our economy is doing well.”