New Mexico Airlines launched in April 2013, offering three 20-minute flights Monday through Friday to and from Los Alamos and Albuquerque, and one morning and one evening flight on weekends.
The most popular flight has been the weekday early morning departure from Los Alamos. The airline’s news release said the flight is often full with lab or business travelers departing for connections in Albuquerque to the east or west coast.
The airline said customer feedback in surveys indicated support for a second morning flight. Beginning next week, New Mexico Airlines will add an 8:15 a.m. flight Monday through Saturday. Adjustments have been made to midday flights, too, and there will also be a new 5:45 p.m. departure from Albuquerque to Los Alamos, intended to make it easier for business commuters or travelers arriving in Albuquerque from either coast “to be in Los Alamos by dinnertime,” the news release said.
Daily flights start at $49 each way. Los Alamos County is supporting the service with state, federal and local funds, “with a goal to ultimately bring new revenues to Los Alamos with business travel and tourism revenues, as well as being an incentive for new businesses to locate or relocate to the area,” the airline says.
In its first year, about 6,000 passengers have used the Los Alamos–Albuquerque flight service. Los Alamos Airport expects those numbers to increase to 8,000 passengers in 2014.
The flight service evolved from a partnership between Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County and New Mexico Airlines. The U.S. Department of Transportation provided partial funding as part of its Small Community Air Service Development program. Prior to last year’s launch, Los Alamos had not had air service to Albuquerque since 1996.
About 20 percent of the airlines’ passengers are Los Alamos National Laboratories employees traveling on lab business. The rest are a combination of tourists and locals. Some travel to Albuquerque for medical care.
“We are hopeful that these flights will have a positive economic ripple effect on the community as a whole since thousands of visitors who, otherwise may not have stayed in Los Alamos, will stay in our hotels and patronize area businesses here,” said Greg Fisher, Los Alamos County’s economic development administrator. “With the addition of a new hotel and other improvements to the area in the future, the area’s continuing growth will help to attract outside businesses here as well.”
Los Alamos Airport manager Peter Soderquist said: “We hope that tourists, when they arrive in New Mexico, will use the airline to bring them to Los Alamos which can serve as a ‘base of operations,’ where they can stay in and venture out to see northern New Mexico’s attractions such as Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve and Pajarito Mountain.”
The airline uses nine-passenger Cessna Caravan propeller planes.