Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris ended its direct-flight service from Phoenix to sister city Hermosillo, but will add another destination south of the border in late May, according to the airline.
In late November, Volaris began offering two non-stop flights per week to Hermosillo, a manufacturing hub and capital of neighboring Sonora state. But Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport officials confirmed on Thursday that service between the two cities with this airline ended in March.
However, the Mexico City-based company announced that in its place, it would add non-stop flights starting on May 27 from Phoenix to Culiacán, a city of nearly 1 million people in Sinaloa, one of the states hit hardest by drug violence.
In a statement, an executive for Volaris cited safety as a factor for the new route, which no other airline offers.
"It's proof of our commitment to provide more and better travel options... so that our clients in Culiacán can have better experiences while visiting their friends and family in Phoenix in a safe and efficient way, without having to drive over 20 hours," Miguel Aguiñaga said.
The most recent travel warning from the Department of State calls on U.S. citizens to avoid non-essential travel to most of Sinaloa state, which houses "one of Mexico's most powerful criminal organizations," the cartel of the same name.
Nonetheless, the representative for the city of Phoenix in Mexico said this new route presents an opportunity for Arizona to become a tourist and business destination for Mexican visitors who so far had been unable or unwilling to make the trip by car or bus.
"It will place Phoenix as a welcoming destination that is open to visitors from other places," Jose Andres Garcia said. "It's not that far (by car), but the topic of security had been an obstacle."
Visitors can purchase the 60-minute flight starting at $90.99 one way. There will be two flights per week, on Fridays and Mondays, beginning on May 27. But there is no guarantee it will remain in place.
Volaris landed at Sky Harbor in 2013 and began offering non-stop flights to Mexico City and Guadalajara. But about six months later, it cancelled service to Mexico City. Volaris continues offering flights three times a week to Guadalajara, and from there to about 40 other cities within Mexico.
"Sometimes airlines need to test markets to find the right fit," Phoenix Assistant Aviation Director Deborah Ostreicher said. "What is clear is that Phoenix and Volaris are committed to each other and we wish the airline great success on this route to Culiacan."
Despite the challenges, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton welcomed the announcement and said the city remains committed to forging closer ties to Mexico.
"With so many connecting opportunities both here at Phoenix Sky Harbor and at the Culiacan International Airport, we will see not only visitors between our two cities, but this route will also serve as an excellent connection opportunity for travelers,” he said.
Sky Harbor still offers direct flights to Hermosillo and Mexico City through American Airlines.
Original article can be found here: http://www.azcentral.com