FARMINGTON – Four Corners residents who want to fly to Denver will have another option besides the La Plata County Airport starting in October.
Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington will begin offering daily commercial flights to Denver this fall, the first time the airport has had a commercial flight in three years. Farmington City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the contract with SkyWest Airlines for Denver-direct flights to begin in October.
“We’re all excited about the new air service,” said Four Corners Regional Airport Manager Mike Lewis.
The tentative flight schedule is designed to arrive and depart Denver with enough time for people to make connecting flights at the international airport hub. The daily flight will leave Farmington at 7 a.m. and arrive in Denver at 8:10 a.m. The return flight will leave Denver at 8:20 p.m. and arrive in Farmington at 9:30 p.m.
The city has contracted with SkyWest through 2022, when the contract will have to be renewed. The planes will fly under the United Express logo. Great Lakes Aviation, the previous company contracted with the city, left Farmington in 2017, citing a pilot shortage.
The return of commercial flights to Farmington is a strong component in the city’s economic development and outdoor recreation initiatives.
Lewis said it offered a great opportunity to do a lot of outdoor activities and to get people into the Farmington area.
“When you’re trying to market outdoor recreation and retirement living as two of your components for economic development, you need to have people who could fly directly to your city so that they can do those things,” said Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett during the City Council meeting. “Which also then builds up your outdoor recreation businesses because you’re going to have more demand for the services that we can provide.”
While the fares have not been determined and negotiations are ongoing, Lewis said the addition of a Farmington option could help reduce the cost of flights throughout the region.
“The only options are Durango or Albuquerque. These flights will have a downward pressure on the fare cost,” Lewis said. “It will allow competition in the Four Corners region.”
Lewis said the city commissioned a survey last year of people who flew within a 90-minute drive-time radius of Farmington. The survey found most of the market drove to Albuquerque to fly.
“Only a little over 20% drove to get on a plane in Durango,” Lewis said.
The airport received a $3.45 million grant to extend the runways from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airfield was also repainted and received fog sealing to extend the runway’s life.
The city also received a grant of $850,000 from the FAA, a $200,000 grant from the New Mexico Department of Transportation for promotion and revenue guarantee.
Farmington has a long history of aviation in the area, with the first commercial flights starting in 1947, Lewis said. In 1983, there were six airlines offering flights in and out of the city. The regional airport boarded as many as 85,000 passengers per year, about 235 passengers per day, in 1995.
Lewis said while a lot of the air travel since then has migrated to Durango, “we think having an alternative in Farmington will be a great thing for Durango and Farmington.”