Do you know the way to Santa Fe? One of the most beautiful cities in New Mexico and arguably in much of the Southwest, it has long depended on its nearby neighbour, Albuquerque, for airline connections. The little city in the mountains, a retreat for artists and increasingly for the wealthy and for well-healed tourists, now has only turboprop service, and only on Great Lakes. Most visitors fly into the bigger city some 50 miles away and then rent a car. The city elders decided that they’d like direct access to some of the bigger sources of tourism, and spent more than $5 million to get the airport’s runways extended to include safety overruns. In June, the airport won FAA permission to handle planes larger than 30 seats. The elders also decided to offer incentives, and within weeks, both American Eagle and the Delta Connection announced service.
Eagle will add flights to DFW and Los Angeles, and Delta’s ExpressJet connection contractor will fly to LAX and Salt Lake City. Both regional-jet routes start in December, the prime tourism and skiing season. Both services depend on the city’s wise men and women agreeing to incentives. If the routes do in fact start, this could be an interesting case study in RJ-versus-big jet competition, especially since the dominant carrier at the big airport in Albuquerque is Southwest, with more than half the boardings. How much more will people be willing to pay for direct service into Santa Fe on an RJ?