Airport Check-in: Volaris Airlines plans U.S. service

— -- Route news:

Volaris Airlines, a small Mexican carrier, will bring service to the USA for the first time in its three-year history.

Starting July 1, Volaris will offer daily non-stop flights between Los Angeles and both Guadalajara and Toluca, Mexico. On July 2, it will also start flying daily between Oakland and the two cities in Mexico. Toluca is about 40 miles southwest of Mexico City, while Guadalajara, the capital of Mexican state Jalisco, is the second-largest city in the country.

Volaris and Southwest Airlines have previously said they will begin a code-share agreement in 2010, allowing U.S. customers to buy Volaris tickets on Southwest's website.

Other route news

United Airlines, beginning Sept. 2, will offer daily service between Pittsburgh and its hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

JetBlue plans to introduce service between its home at New York John F. Kennedy International and the Caribbean island of St. Lucia in the fall. The airline says the flight's inaugural date hasn't been determined.

St. Lucia, in the eastern Caribbean, is one of JetBlue's 13 international destinations.

The discount carrier recently announced that it will begin flying to Montego Bay, Jamaica, on May 21 and to Barbados on Oct. 1.

What's new

Airports take swine flu precautions

Despite the recent swine flu outbreak, it's business as usual for domestic airports that have high traffic to and from Mexico. While some airlines have canceled flights to Mexico, airport officials say major operational changes haven't been necessary, given only a small number of cases in the USA.

"At this time, all U.S. ports of entry are open and operating as normal with officers using risk-based border screening," U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. Its officers are monitoring the health of incoming travelers and taking "all appropriate precautions," including referring a person with symptoms to a quarantine station or a local health official for evaluation, it says.

Several airports are taking minor precautionary measures to prevent infection. At Los Angeles International, custodians are instructed to pay extra attention in sanitizing door knobs and handrails in restrooms. LAX has also activated an operations center, where airport and federal public health officials can work in one place to respond to any possible reports of passengers arriving with flu-like symptoms. "We've had many false alarms," spokeswoman Nancy Castles says.

San Diego International says it's also monitoring and cleaning restrooms more frequently. LAX and San Diego have placed posters in terminals to remind travelers of the importance of washing their hands and covering their mouths when coughing.

Paramedics at Phoenix Sky Harbor's fire stations have received pandemic flu briefings, and the airport is using Twitter to update travelers. Houston's Bush Intercontinental and LAX have also placed hand sanitizers in their terminals.

Miami adding direct rail to downtown

Miami International will join a small but growing number of airports that have direct metro-rail access to and from downtown. Miami-Dade Transit broke ground last week on a 4-mile extension of the region's Metrorail from the Earlington Heights station — currently the nearest stop from MIA — to a ground transportation hub that's being built next to the airport.

A 1.25-mile people-mover system will connect the airport to the ground transportation hub for buses, train and rental cars. The rail link and the ground transportation hub are both expected to be completed in 2012.

Florida passes bill to help get animals off of runways

The Florida Legislature passed a bill Friday that would give airport operators more leeway to shoo wildlife off runways.

It grants airports immunity from state and local penalties when they accidentally kill or injure endangered animals while managing wildlife hazards. Airports use a variety of tools to shoo away birds, including air horns, sound cannons, dogs and paint balls.

The bill will be sent to the governor's office for his signature. "I think all the signs are that he supports it," says Larry Dale, CEO of Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Julie Wraithmell of Audubon of Florida told the Orlando Sentinel that it'd be difficult to determine intent when animals are killed by airport employees. But the bill specifies that airport managers aren't immune from liability if they are found to be negligent, she says.

The bill was introduced by a state representative earlier this year after a US Airways flight landed on the Hudson River after bird strikes. The Federal Aviation Administration released new data last week that revealed that collisions between birds and aircraft have occurred at nearly all large domestic airports.