A Big Day For Honduras: Spirit Airlines First To Fly To New Airport

Spirit Airlines has now found a place for itself in the history of Honduran aviation. The airline operated the first commercial flight at Tegucigalpa’s brand new Palmerola International Airport (XPL). This marks the airline’s second destination in Honduras. Palmerola is supposed to help expand air service from the Honduran capital city, and Spirit was the first new airline to announce it would serve the airport.

Spirit Airlines has become the first airline to operate flights to XPL, Tegucigalpa’s new international gateway. Photo: Getty Images

Spirit Airlines inaugurates flights to Palmerola International Airport

On Saturday, December 11th, Spirit Airlines became the first airline to inaugurate service to XPL. The airline’s first flight operated from Houston’s George Bush International Airport (IAH) to XPL.

It was a celebration for many involved. Spirit Airlines inaugurated flights to its second destination in Honduras. XPL welcomed its first commercial flights in the quest to become a larger airport designed to expand service in Tegucigalpa. Of course, onboard, there was another celebration, with flight attendants making announcements that highlighted the special nature of this flight.

Spirit initially planned to start nonstop service from November 17th. However, for various reasons, the airline’s first flights to XPL were delayed until December. Spirit has maintained its initial network and flight schedules, however.

Why XPL is special

XPL is part of the ongoing strategy to continue modernizing and expanding Honduras’s aviation industry. Located on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the airport is expected to become the primary international airport serving Tegucigalpa. Given the growing importance of air operations to support the local economy and political interests, creating a new international gateway for Tegucigalpa is a big deal.

Tegucigalpa is currently served by Toncontin International Airport (TGU). This has been the primary point of service for airlines flying to and from Honduras, but it has a host of structural problems. The airport’s location calls for a difficult approach, and the short runway at the airport even further limits the size and type of aircraft that can fly to and from the airport.

Due to its location and short runway, Tegucigalpa primarily receives service from small narrowbody aircraft like the Boeing 737-700 and Airbus A319. Photo: Getty Images

In 2008, Delta Air Lines began service to Tegucigalpa from its hub in Atlanta. What made this service possible was the Boeing 737-700. Delta acquired the type specifically to serve points that have short runways, extreme temperatures, and high altitudes. When service launched, Delta trumpeted how the aircraft was important in adding Tegucigalpa to the network.

XPL is designed to alleviate these pressures. Palmerola is in a much better location and has a longer runway, allowing for a greater degree of air service than TGU. Spirit’s entrance at the airport marks the start of the transition from TGU to XPL.

Spirit Airlines in Honduras

XPL is the second destination that Spirit serves in Honduras. Its initial flights to XPL are daily services from Houston (IAH). It is also starting four weekly services from XPL to Miami (MIA). Starting on January 11th, Spirit will add Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to its network from XPL with daily service.

A Big Day For Honduras: Spirit Airlines First To Fly To New Airport
Spirit’s route network from XPL. Photo: Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines is larger in San Pedro Sula (SAP), located in the northern part of Honduras. Spirit serves four destinations from SAP:

  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL) with daily service
  • Orlando (MCO) with daily service (drops down to three weekly flights from January)
  • Houston (IAH) with four weekly flights
  • Miami (MIA) with three weekly flights
  • New Orleans (MSY) with three weekly flights

With service to Tegucigalpa, Spirit Airlines is continuing its expansion to destinations south of the United States. While the airline does sell connections in cities like Orlando or Fort Lauderdale, it primarily targets nonstop point-to-point demand from its other cities.

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