FARMINGTON – The city of Farmington announced Monday the return of commercial flights to the region has been delayed as a result of coronavirus uncertainties.
The daily flights from the Four Corners Regional Airport to Denver will be delayed until at least the spring of 2021, the city announced in a news release.
“This unexpected increase in the pandemic has caused a temporary shift in the business climate for many industries,” Mike Lewis, manager of the Four Corners Regional Airport, said in a statement.
Lewis said the city remained eager to bring flights back to the region when the time was right.
The city said in its news release the delay comes “amid a decrease in flights nationwide resulting from travel restrictions in several states, including New Mexico, in addition to travel concerns related to coronavirus.”
A public health order issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham requires anyone traveling to New Mexico from out of state to self-quarantine for the first 14 days of their visit or the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter. Starting July 13, out-of-state visitors were also barred from visiting state parks.
“The risk of trying to establish and grow air service at Four Corners Regional Airport during this unprecedented, uncertain time would not be in the best interest of our community or our airline partners,” Lewis said in the release.
The city’s announcement comes as air travel has continued to decline with an uptick in virus cases throughout the southern and western United States.
This summer saw the first decline in summer travel since 2009, according to the American Automobile Association. A report by AAA found air travel has declined by about 74% while road trips have declined by only 3% from last year.
But the AAA report found air travel reservations booked 48 hours to seven days before the departure are significantly higher than normal, meaning more people are planning last-minute trips.
Still, the city predicts the Denver-direct flights will not begin until the spring of 2021 at the earliest.
In late June, the city announced it had reached an agreement with SkyWest Airlines to begin operating daily direct flights to Denver beginning in October. It would be the first time the airport offered a commercial flight in three years, when Great Lakes Aviation left Farmington in 2017. The previous company cited a pilot shortage for its service termination.
The SkyWest Airlines flights will fly under the United Express logo.
“When the time comes, we will be ready to move full speed ahead to successfully bring regional jet service back to the Four Corners,” Lewis said.