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Southwest Airlines CEO: ‘This is the year of Houston’

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary KellySouthwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly

Southwest Airlines is debuting a new international terminal in Houston, Texas at the William P. Hobby Airport, USA Today reports.

Gary Kelly, the airline’s CEO, said at a media preview on Thursday that “This is the year of Houston.” The city is one of Southwest’s three original locations and the most logical choice for an international terminal, as many of the destinations lie south of the Texan border. Kelly says that this will be a priority for the airline for “quite some time.”

The $146 million, five-gate terminal will have daily flights scheduled to Mexico, Belize, and Costa Rica, and Kelly suggested that there may be a few additional international destinations by next year, but did not delve any further into the matter.

While this new terminal is big news for Southwest, the airline has a few other things in the works as well. It will add new flights within the U.S. and to Cuba, and will schedule more short-distance flights. Shorter flights became much less popular with increasingly time-consuming security and higher fuel prices. Executives of the airline say that business could begin to expand now that jet fuel prices have dropped and the airline has lowered its fares.

Southwest also plans to feature a drink menu with beer and 20 different cocktails priced at $5 each. It will also introduce new staff uniforms for the first time in 20 years. There will also be new seats that are supposed to be thinner, lighter, and larger in economy.

The airline will also work on a better performing Internet service and more efficient operations overall. On-time performance used to be one of its strong points, but became a casualty of a growing business and more complex operations.