Fly to Phoenix from SF airport
By Kiera Hay / Journal North Reporter on Sat, Mar 16, 2013

Add Phoenix to the ever-growing list of places connected to Santa Fe by commercial air travel.

Despite worries over potential funding cuts to the Santa Fe Municipal Airport’s air traffic control tower, Great Lakes Airlines announced Friday that it plans to begin daily flights between Santa Fe and Phoenix, starting May 1.

“Essentially what we’re doing is opening another hub” to direct access from Santa Fe, said Airport Director Jim Montman. “We’re just excited to have Phoenix out of Santa Fe. That’s the big news here.”

One-way tickets start at around $90.

Flights from Santa Fe to Phoenix will leave at 9:53 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 11:08 a.m. on Sunday, while the Phoenix to Santa Fe flights will leave 9:15 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 11:08 a.m. on Sunday.

Great Lakes already operates flights between Santa Fe and Denver, having resumed service in late 2012 after an absence of several years. That route connects Clovis and Denver, via Santa Fe, under an essential air agreement subsidized by the federal government. Under the new service, Great Lakes will operate a daily Denver-Santa Fe-Phoenix trip and back around.

Clovis, the city that benefits from the essential air agreement, will be connected with another city, according to Montman.

Messages left with Great Lakes’ public relations director Friday were not returned. The news comes as the Federal Aviation Administration struggles to trim $637 million from its budget because of “sequestering,” the automatic federal budget cuts that took effect this month.

The FAA recently notified officials that the contractor that operates the Santa Fe Municipal Airport’s control tower will lose funding unless local officials can show a pressing national interest. Around 189 contractor-operated air traffic control towers around the country are in a similar position. FAA officials are expected to make a final decision March 22.

Santa Fe and New Mexico officials have sent federal officials letters seeking to save the Santa Fe airport’s control tower. Santa Fe Mayor David Coss has said the city will look at trying to fund the tower costs itself if funding is cut.

For now, it’s unclear what impact the tower closing would have on commercial flights to Santa Fe. In addition to the Great Lakes operation, American Eagle operates flights between Santa Fe and Dallas and Los Angeles. United Airlines is slated to start regional jet service between Santa Fe and Denver on May 1.

Montman said that, while “it’s critical to flight safety that we have and operate a control tower,” airlines “operate all the time into airports without control towers.” Montman said Great Lakes and American Eagle have both used the Santa Fe airport at times the control tower was closed.

“We have no indication from any airlines that they would reduce or terminate their service because of the airlines sequester,” Montman said.

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