FARMINGTON — Farmington city council did not approve a proposed subsidized flight route from Four Corners Regional Airport to Albuquerque during a special work session Friday morning.
After seeing no interest in the deal from city councilmembers, Mayor Tommy Roberts declared that no vote was needed on the proposal.
Under the proposed agreement, New Mexico Airlines would have operated two round trips every weekday and one each on Saturday and Sunday from Farmington to Albuquerque.
The city would have been required to subsidize a minimum of $389,813 per year. But the proposed agreement also included a clause guaranteeing income equivalent to a 70 percent passenger load on each flight, bringing the city's potential liability up to $1,113,765.12 per year if not enough passengers bought flights.
New Mexico Airlines operates routes to Albuquerque from Carlsbad and from Los Alamos, according to a May 6 letter from Todd Gressick, the airport manager, to City Manager Rob Mayes and Bob Campbell, assistant city manager.
The Carlsbad-Albuquerque route has been operating at an average 20 percent load, Campbell said Friday morning.
A one-way ticket from Farmington to Albuquerque would have cost $92, he said.
Councilman Dan Darnell raised a number of concerns about potential conflict with Four Corners Regional Airport's current carrier, Great Lakes Airlines.
"Have there been any talks with Great Lakes in terms of subsidies?" he said. "Right now, Great Lakes is unsubsidized. Maybe Albuquerque is the destination, but it's also a connection hub."
Darnell said he was worried that flights to Albuquerque would put New Mexico Airlines in unfair competition with Great Lakes' four daily flights to Denver.
"I'm just really queasy about this whole thing," he said.
In addition to the potential competition, it appears that service on the Farmington-Albuquerque route would have been minimal.
Passengers would not go through Transportation Security Administration screening in Farmington and would be required to recheck their baggage and be rescreened prior to boarding another flight in Albuquerque, according to information included in the agenda.
In addition, New Mexico Airlines' Farmington station would have no assigned staff.
Nevertheless, Campbell said that Four Corners Regional Airport is in overall good shape, considering the difficult economic situation.
"We're really in a fortunate position to have those four flights, seven days a week to Denver," he said in an airport budget discussion later during Friday's work session. "We moved 19,000 passengers last year."
The airport also provides corporate jet service and medical flights, Campbell said.
"The air industry everywhere is struggling," he said. "We're hanging on. Some of our users are the oil and gas industry and with the (downturn) we've seen some of those effects."
Greg Yee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT.