In Santa Fe, NM, things are looking up as the airport there gears up to expand to accept regional jets. In the past travelers had to fly to Albuquerque and drive an hour, according to Jim Montman, the airport director there.
The capital city of New Mexico is in the market for expanded commercial airline service following a certification upgrade of the Santa Fe Municipal Airport in early June. The status change of the airport allows an increase in the capacity of scheduled commercial airline flights from aircraft of 9 to 30 seats, to commercial airline aircraft with unlimited seats.
However, the airport is only able to support airline aircraft having up to 59 seats due to facility and other constraints. The size equates to relatively small, so called regional jets. This opens the airport to a new level of commercial air service by higher passenger capacity airline aircraft, catering to Santa Fe’s business, political, and tourism travelers.
Presently, air travelers to Santa Fe can choose between commercial airline service into the Albuquerque airport and making the one hour drive to Santa Fe or flying directly into the Santa Fe airport from Denver in a 19 passenger plane on one of 3 daily scheduled flights by Great Lakes Airlines.
Airport usage is approximately 10,000 passengers per year currently, however the airport has boarded as many as 52,000 airline passengers in the recent past. There is a clear potential for as many as 80,000 annual passengers arriving in Santa Fe with regional jet and other service. This would mean only an additional six or seven flights per day. Non-commercial aircraft equal or larger in size to regional jets have been using the airport for many years.
“The potential for upgraded commercial airline service is clearly there, and attaining this status allows us to tap the existing market with regional jets and other similar-sized commercial airline aircraft,” said Montman. “The Santa Fe Municipal Airport is currently in contact with a number of airlines to provide this high level of service.”