June 26, 2022

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Houston pressures Southwest Airlines, United to help city’s ailing parks

3 min read

Before voting to green-light a crucial fuel storage upgrade for Southwest Airlines at Houston’s Hobby Airport, City Council Member Robert Gallegos on Wednesday called on the Texas-based company to invest in more communities surrounding the airport — and Mayor Sylvester Turner joined in on the call. 

Before voting on the measure, Gallegos pointed his comments to the airline—reminding them, and the public, about the 2019 fuel spill and the damage it caused. 


“It caused serious and lasting environmental impacts on our waterways, wildlife and several parks, including our brand-new botanic garden,” Gallegos said. “The clean up lasted over two months. I want to make sure that this does not happen again.” 

Southwest Airlines has since replaced the contractor that caused the leak in the 2019 incident, and Gallegos appeared happy with the safety and capacity improvements included in the plans for the new fuel storage facility. Then, he went a bit further. 

“With that said, Southwest Airlines now has a large footprint at Hobby Airport,” Gallegos said. “Now I’m asking them to give back to our community.”

Gallegos pressured Southwest Airlines leaders to join the Houston Parks Board’s 50/50 Park Partners program, which combines public dollars with corporate donations to spruce up the city’s ailing parks. Several prominent companies doing business in Houston, including Chevron, H-E-B, Valero Energy Foundation and Community Health Choice, are sponsors. 

“We have Andover Park in the Hobby area, and it’s in need of tender-loving care,” Gallegos said. “Southwest Airlines jets fly over Garden Villas Park, Andover Park, and now it’s time for Southwest to step up like other corporations have stepped up in providing support in our 50/50 Parks.”

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Andover Park is located in Gallegos’ southeast Houston district, a little over two miles from the edge of Hobby’s Runway 13R at the northwestern-most corner of the airport’s grounds. Flights do indeed fly over the park during their final descent into the airport, about 750 feet above the ground. Jets register between 70 and 80 decibels when flying over the park, according to the National Transportation Noise Map. 

Gallegos reported to council that an airline spokesperson told him they would “look into it.” In a statement to Chron, the airline made no specific claim. 

“Southwest and the city of Houston have maintained a strong partnership since we first began service in 1971,” said Dan Landson, spokesperson for Southwest Airlines. “We look forward to continuing conversations with the mayor and his team as we work together to continue making Houston a great place to live, work and play.”

Southwest Airlines Flight 2349, en route from Oakland, makes its final approach to Hobby Airport less than 700 feet over Andover Park on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Southwest Airlines Flight 2349, en route from Oakland, makes its final approach to Hobby Airport less than 700 feet over Andover Park on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Screengrab / adsbexchange

Turner also chimed in, adding that Southwest Airlines was a major reason Hobby Airport obtained a five-star rating from Skytrax, only one of 16 airports across the globe to receive such a rating. 

“That would not be the case without Southwest Airlines being the main anchor over there,” Turner said. “You don’t want to be one of 16 [best airports] in the world and then the community that’s surrounding it be lagging behind.”

In the same breath, the mayor extended the plea to companies at the larger Bush Intercontinental Airport in north Houston, namely United Airlines. 

“I’m asking Intercontinental and all the billions of dollars that’s being spent over there by United and others to be more responsive in Community Benefit Agreements for the communities around them,” Turner said. “It’s not enough just to spend the billions at the airport. It’s the community around it.”

City Council Members, including Gallegos, voted unanimously approving changes to the city’s lease with Southwest Airlines, which allows for the fuel storage work. 



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