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FARMINGTON — Mayor Nate Duckett said having commercial airlines flying in and out of Farmington is critical to the city’s efforts to diversify the economy, including attracting tourism and creating an attractive retirement community.

The Farmington City Council heard an update about efforts to return commercial air service to the Four Corners Regional Airport when it met on Nov. 12. The meeting can be watched online at fmtn.org.

“Given the geographic isolation, a natural market exists that SkyWest can tap in to,” said Mike Lewis, the airport manager at Four Corners Regional Airport.

City officials traveled to visit with SkyWest Airlines on Oct. 25 at its headquarters in St. George, Utah. During that meeting, officials presented market data to the airline. The information presented to SkyWest was then presented to the City Council on Nov. 12. Here are three highlights from that discussion.

Residents are more likely to fly out of Albuquerque than Durango, Colorado

There are about 210,000 people who live within a 90-minute drive of the Four Corners Regional Airport, Lewis told the City Council.

Commercial air service at the Four Corners Regional Airport ended in 2017, leaving a gap in service for those 210,000 residents.

More: Pilots wanted: Shortage may cause Great Lakes to leave Farmington

“I had always thought that more people drove to Durango,” Lewis said.

However, a market analysis found that only 29 percent of those nearly 210,000 people flew out of the Durango airport while 59 percent drove to Albuquerque to catch a flight.

“There’s 89 people on the highway to Albuquerque every day to take a flight,” Lewis said.

Those are the people Farmington hopes to serve when commercial air service returns.

“The target is the 60 percent that is going to Albuquerque,” Duckett said. “We want to keep that percentage flying out of Farmington.”

Lewis said the reason people drive to Albuquerque may be the cost. The average airline fare out of Durango is nearly $100 more expensive than a flight out of Albuquerque.

Plans for commercial air service out of Farmington are taking shape

Consultants hired to complete a market study included suggestions for flight times. Duckett said nothing has been chosen or finalized and the proposal is a suggestion by the consultants.

Lewis presented the proposed schedule of flights out of Farmington to Denver. He said a plane could leave at 6 a.m. to fly to Denver, where it would land at 7:20 a.m. Then there would be a return plane arriving at the Farmington airport from Denver at 11:54 p.m.

Lewis said the proposal is to start with flights to and from Denver, which is one of the most popular destinations.

City Manager Rob Mayes said Four Corners Regional Airport is open to any airline that will come and that the decisions about where the planes fly and flight times are made by the airlines, not the city. The airline also determines fares.

Commercial air service could create jobs, bring new opportunities

Councilor Janis Jakino asked how many new jobs will be created once commercial air service returns to Farmington.

Lewis said there could be about two dozen jobs created.  

Mayes said Farmington has also spoken with SkyWest about the possibility of having a mechanic school based out of the Four Corners Regional Airport. This would provide a place for students to learn to work on airplanes.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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