Gov. Bill Richardson came to the celebration at Santa Fe Municipal Airport on Thursday to mark the inaugural flights of American Eagle to and from Dallas and made a surprise announcement: American Eagle service between Santa Fe and Los Angeles starts Nov. 19.
“It’s not just tourism,” he said of the need for the new flights, which will use a regional jet to serve Santa Fe. “Doing this helps our film industry.”
Americana Eagle’s service to both Dallas and Los Angeles was welcomed by Mayor David Coss, who thanked the travelers, American Eagle officials, and government workers for making it possible.
Coss extended a special thanks to Santa Fe airport manager Jim Montman, who “never stopped” in his efforts to improve the local airport.
“It was a great effort, and it is a great day,” Coss said.
Richardson and Coss spoke to about 150 people gathered at the airport to welcome the American Eagle flights.
Shortly after that Coss and his wife, Carol Rose, hopped aboard the outgoing American Eagle flight and left for Dallas and, ultimately, the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Providence, R.I.
Looking forward to his return trip, Coss said, “It’s so nice to be able to land here in Santa Fe and not have to drive another hour from Albuquerque.”
Another resident planning to fly American Eagle is Rich Verruni, managing partner of Bishop’s Lodge in Tesuque.
“My wife’s wanted to go to San Antonio for the last six months,” Verruni said. “We want to support the community” by flying from Santa Fe. In the long run, “this service will be a dramatic boost for tourism.” The Verrunis leave next week on their trip.
Another Dallas-bound passenger was Bob Metchek, who was headed for Boston. Metchek hadn’t been able to get a flight from Albuquerque and ended up flying out of Santa Fe. Unfortunately, the storms in Dallas delayed his departure and almost certainly meant he was going to miss his flight to Boston.
“The timing (of American Eagle’s flight from Santa Fe to Dallas) is just atrocious if you’re trying to catch an east-bound flight,” Metchek said. “I will probably be spending the weekend at the Dallas airport.”
About 50 flights were canceled Thursday morning at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and more delays and cancellations were expected. As many as 40 flights were delayed out of Dallas Love Field, where Southwest Airlines is based, spokeswoman Brandy King said.
The first flight to Santa Fe from Dallas-Fort Worth got in about two hours late, thanks to thunderstorms in Texas. Among the passengers on that flight was Cherry Langford, a resident of Fort Worth.
“I love Santa Fe,” she said. “After all those years of going through Albuquerque, this is great.” Langford said she was in town for a nine-day stay.
Española resident Tino Lopez came to the airport Thursday to find out more about American Eagle and its service to Dallas. Lopez has 10 season tickets to Dallas Cowboys games with three games per ticket. He sells the tickets to other football fans and wanted to know more about the flights to Dallas to tell his clients about them.
“I’m interested in the prices of the flights,” he said. “And how long these flights will continue.”
American Eagle spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said Thursday’s flights were not completely booked, but she added that overall, “ticket sales are going very well. As long as the community supports us, and they are, we will continue the flights.”
American Eagle and Delta Air Lines in mid-2007 had both announced their intent to begin direct flights from Santa Fe to various cities.
However their plans were delayed by the federal and state environmental-review process. Subsequent economic conditions led the airline industry to drop some routes. In February of this year Delta decided not to proceed with its planned Santa Fe flights.
A spokesman said at the time said Delta “was at the limit on new flights for this summer.”
The new American Eagle flights will use 44-seat Embraer ERJ-140 regional jets, which fly at an altitude of 40,000 feet at a speed of 500 miles an hour.
Airport manager Jim Montman said previously the Brazilian-made jets will be quieter or no noisier than planes now flying into the airport.
Santa Fe has not had scheduled commercial air service since Great Lakes Airlines ceased United Express flights to and from Denver on Jan. 7, 2008.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Bob Quick at 986-3011 or firstname.lastname@example.org
AMERICAN EAGLE FLIGHT SCHEDULE
• Santa Fe to Dallas-Fort Worth: The once-daily flight leaves at 12:10 p.m. and arrives at 2:50 p.m. (There is a one-hour time difference between Santa Fe and Dallas.)
• Dallas-Fort Worth to Santa Fe: The once-a-day flight leaves 10:55 a.m. and arrives at 11:45 a.m. local time.
• Planned Los Angeles flights: The Los Angeles flight will leave Santa Fe for Los Angeles International Airport at 12:15 p.m. and arrive at 1:30 p.m.. local time. The flights from LAX leaves at 10:15 a.m. and arrive in Santa Fe at 1:15 p.m. local time.
The New Mexican, 6/12/09