AirTran Airways began daily flights from John Wayne Airport to Mexico over the weekend, offering a message of "Bienvenidos, Orange County" at its launch party.
More than 200 passengers boarded planes for the Cabo San Lucas area and Mexico City on Sunday morning.
Two fully booked planes, each with a seating capacity of 137 passengers, left the airport's newly built Terminal C amid fanfare that included a complimentary Mexican-style breakfast, sunglasses and other gifts from the airline.
"It's really a game-changer in many respects," said Gary Sherwin, president and chairman of the Orange County Tourism Council. "This is our first formal international service going into that new terminal. It opens us up to a whole new spectrum of business and leisure travel."
Sherwin, who is also president and chief executive of Visit Newport Beach, praised the terminal and revamped airport as an excellent representation of the county.
"An airport is like a community's doorstep," he said. "Your very first impressions of Orange County are what you see out of the plane windows, looking out at the tarmac, and what you experience inside the terminal."