United Airlines is cutting nonstop service from George Bush Intercontinental Airport to Paris and several other cities, as it begins to make good on its threat to cut service after the city approved Southwest Airlines' proposal to open Hobby Airport for international commercial flights.
Beginning in September when the Chicago-based carrier moves to its fall schedule, it will suspend the daily non-stop flight from Houston to Paris that Continental Airlines began offering in 1992. United became the world's largest airline when it merged with Houston-based Continental in 2010.
Earlier this year, United fought Southwest's Hobby proposal, arguing it would reduce connecting traffic at Bush Intercontinental and thus harm the big airport's growth as a hub.
Besides Paris, United will cut other destinations it now serves from IAH, its largest hub: Waco; Greensboro and Asheville, N.C.; Toluca, Mazatlán and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico; and Aruba. Service to those locations is a mixture of United and United Express regional service.
The last United nonstop flight to Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport will leave Oct. 8, United spokeswoman Mary Clark said. The first route cut will be Tuxtla Gutiérrez in September.
Clark said United had continued to offer service to the unprofitable locations, hoping they would turn around as Bush Intercontinental grows, but was prompted to nix them after the Houston City Council's approval of Southwest's Hobby proposal.
As part of that deal, Southwest agreed to pay for a customs facility and five-gate expansion at Hobby so it could begin flying in 2015 to the Caribbean and Latin America.
Clark said the Paris route hadn't been profitable for more than two years.
"With Hobby operating internationally, we don't feel we have the same growth prospects at IAH we had in the past," she said. "So we don't expect these flights to become profitable.
"Our most prudent path is to eliminate the unprofitable flying now rather than continue to lose money."
Within hours of the council's 16-1 vote on May 30, United sent out a bulletin to its employees saying it would reduce planned operations at Bush Intercontinental by 10 percent and eliminate 1,300 Houston jobs starting this fall. It immediately canceled a planned nonstop flight from Houston to Auckland, New Zealand.
I predicted that United would begin to reduce IAH after they consumed Continental. I would not be surprised to see them eventually say "FU" to Houston and ditch IAH as a hub, just like Delta did to DFW.
Now they're just throwing a temper tantrum because they can no longer intimidate the Houston City Council into keeping Southwest from operating international flights.