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Council agrees to extension for Roswell to Phoenix flights

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ARTESIA — The Artesia City Council has approved a three-month extension to participate in the consortium that is responsible for flights from Roswell to Phoenix.

The vote was taken Tuesday night during the Artesia City Council meeting as City Clerk Aubrey Hobson told councilors that Artesia — along with a host of others from Southeast New Mexico — is part of a consortium that is kicking in some money for American Airlines to provide flights from the Roswell International Air Center to Sky Harbor in the Valley of the Sun.

Hobson said the same entities stretching from Ruidoso to Carlsbad agreed to kick in some money years ago when it was proposed for American to fly from Roswell to Dallas-Fort Worth.

“We never had to pay any money on it because they had enough passenger count,” he said of the flights from Roswell to DFW.

He said a two-year cycle of flights from Roswell to Phoenix has come to an end.

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“We are still paying on that,” Hobson said. “Because they’re not reaching the passenger count that they like, it’s finished and they would like to extend another two years,” Hobson said.

Hobson told the council that Artesia’s portion for the flights west could be as much $67,177 a year. He added that fuel costs and passenger count could be part of that price.

“You don’t have to commit to the two years,” Hobson said. “They would like to have some commitment on a three-month extension so they have time to get further answers on some questions. So you think a quarter of that would be like $15,000.”

“One of the concerns when we were involved with the consortium for the flight between Dallas and Roswell, they were flying the 50-seat jets,” said Artesia Mayor Phil Burch. “The measurement was 70 percent of the seats, if we could consistently fill more than 70 percent of the seats, they never drew that money.”

Burch added, “That was a two-year deal and at the end of two years, they just sent our money back because that hurdle had been met.”

Burch said the contract to Phoenix was hammered out and the same measurement was put in.

“That flight started very, very slow and it had a hard time and went a number of months before it hit 70 percent,” he said.

“When they hit the 70 percent, it was looking good,” Burch said. “Then they decided to swap equipment and they went to 70-seaters (jets) and now we don’t make the 70 percent. I know the Roswell representatives have been crying foul, saying, ‘Wait a minute. You said 70 percent of 50 and we were meeting that.’ But then, American increased the capacity and now we’re not meeting that.”

Burch said, “There’s some arm wrestling going on between those two.”

He added that the flights to Phoenix are a success and said those associated with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia use them frequently.

“What will help, if anything else, is two flights,” Burch said. “You can’t go to Phoneix and do a day’s business and come back.”

“If you really want to go to Dallas, you can leave at 6 a.m. and come back at 10 p.m. But Phoenix, you have to have a stay-over,” he said.

Once the discussion ended, the council gave the all clear for the three-month extension.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.