Las Cruces airport eyes commercial service to ABQ - Albuquerque Journal

Las Cruces airport eyes commercial service to ABQ

LAS CRUCES – Fancy a flight to the Duke City? Las Crucens may be in luck later this year.

At its Dec. 20 meeting, the Las Cruces City Council authorized the city to pursue state grant funding to establish intrastate commercial passenger service out of Las Cruces International Airport.

According to city Airport Administrator Andy Hume, the airport’s current facilities are just about ready to support in-state flights. Improvements that could happen before that would be the addition of televisions, phone-charging outlets and extra seating to the terminal building, he said.

“We’d want to add some additional amenities,” Hume said. “But essentially, we’re ready to go.”

Hume said the city’s “aggressively” pursuing actions that would allow interstate travel to begin not long after.

The approval of the resolution authorizing the application for $3.5 million through the New Mexico Rural Air Service Enhancement Grant Program also authorized the city to provide 10 percent in matching funds to administer commercial service, to bring the total grant request to $3.85 million for a two-year period.

The city has already begun a bidding process to select a provider for flights. A request for proposal process accepted bids through Dec. 28, and Hume said several providers expressed interest in potentially submitting proposals. The number of bidders was not immediately available.

If the New Mexico Department of Transportation-Aviation Division approves the city’s grant request, flights to and from Las Cruces and Albuquerque – about 225 miles apart by interstate – would be the first established. Hume said the plane ride would be under an hour long.

Hume sees that as an “easy win,” since he said there are a plethora of companies based in Albuquerque that do business in Las Cruces.

“That alone creates a significant demand,” Hume said. “Just the business part of it alone.”

Hume said an estimated 18,000 trips a year already occur just between the two cities by any mode of transportation. With intrastate air service, he said the airport expects to pick up a portion of that existing demand.

Based on demand, the city has said flights between Las Cruces and Santa Fe and other New Mexico cities could be established in the future.

If all goes to plan, intrastate flights could begin as soon as mid-2022.

But Hume is looking beyond intrastate. He’s hopeful for interstate travel out of Las Cruces International Airport by late 2022 or early 2023.

It’s an ambitious goal. Hume himself said many pieces need to come together over the next 12 months for that to happen, such as the construction of “dozens” of hangars, the addition of ticket counters, rental car services and Transportation Security Administration infrastructure, which would include the creation of a sterile area beyond security checkpoints.

The airport’s firefighting response also needs to be improved and an airline needs to be selected to provide interstate service, Hume added.

“Interstate’s going to require some significant investment,” Hume said.

But Hume is confident, telling the Sun-News companies are “lining up to build” those hangars. The city is also expected to ask the state to allocate $37.5 million in funding for airport improvements during the upcoming legislative session.

Las Cruces’ airport hasn’t had commercial passenger service since 2005. Between the late 1940s and 2005, 11 airlines provided commercial passenger service there.

The airport is currently used for general and corporate aviation and by the U.S. military, private charters, the local Civil Air Patrol squadron and New Mexico State University for unmanned aircraft systems flight tests.

 


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