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Sunport flying internationally once again

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque International Sunport is international once again, as it celebrated its first out-of-country flight since 2009 on Saturday.

A group of dignitaries led by Mayor Tim Keller disembarked from a Volaris flight out of Guadalajara, Mexico, at about 9:30 Saturday morning and negotiated the newly revived customs area at the west end of the terminal before being greeted by a celebration complete with mariachis in the airport’s Great Hall.

“It was excellent,” said passenger Hannover Sierra Ruiz, who plans on taking the Monday flight back to Guadalajara after exploring Albuquerque for the weekend. “Very smooth, very calm.”

The flight, expected to take 3 hours and 20 minutes, arrived around 45 minutes early.

Volaris, an ultra-low fare carrier serving the U.S., Mexico and Central America, is serving the Sunport with one inbound and one outbound non-stop flight to Guadalajara on Saturdays and Mondays. It’s a relatively new airline that began operations in 2006 under the name of Vuela Airlines and has since grown to become Mexico’s second-largest airline.

This weekend’s flights were expected to be about half-full, meaning around 90 people were on board. Flights for the first weekend could be had for as low as $121.17 each way.

“We’ll work together to make this a profitable and successful flight,” said Miguel Aguiniga, market development director for Volaris.

After passengers disembarked from the morning flight from Mexico, a mix of travelers – from families to those set to play golf, sip tequila or sightsee – settled in for the first flight from Albuquerque to Guadalajara on Saturday, according to a Journal staffer onboard. The occasion was celebrated, in part, with Mexico and New Mexico-themed cookies and commemorative T-shirts being handed out on the plane, which touched down on time in 70-degree weather.

Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, is the capital of Jalisco state, which is renowned as the birthplace of mariachi music, tequila and as a center of the charreada, or Mexican-style rodeo.

Synthia Jaramillo, Albuquerque Economic Development director, said she hopes the flight will connect the two cities both economically and culturally.

“This flight is an economic imperative for international business and tourism, opening up so many opportunities for our two cities to advance technology and innovation, education and cultural exchange,” Jaramillo said. “This flight also provides families living in ABQ with roots in Guadalajara affordable access to loved ones. Familia is now just a short flight away.”

Guadalajara is a hub for Volaris, which offers service from there to such popular destinations as Mexico City, Cancún, Los Cabos, La Paz, Mazatlan, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Veracruz and others. It recently also added service from Guadalajara to Acapulco and to Chetumal.

The Albuquerque service was announced earlier this fall after negotiations between Volaris and the city with help from the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. Discussions initially began among the offices of Gov. Susana Martinez, the Mexican consulate and the airline.

As an incentive to begin the service, the city waived all operating fees for the first year, which a spokesperson described as a standard package for airlines offering new service to Albuquerque.

The city’s last international service was an AeroMexico flight to Chihuahua City that ended in 2009.