Airline announces it will stop service from Oct. 7 to at least Nov. 3
The director of the Roswell Air Center said airline passenger numbers had been going up in recent weeks, so he would like a chance to talk to American Airlines about its decision to put a temporary hold on flight service here.
American Airlines released a statement early Thursday morning announcing that it will stop service from Oct. 7 until at least Nov. 3 in 15 smaller U.S. cities. That includes Roswell, which counts American as its only commercial air service at this time.
Air Center Director Scott Stark said that he expected city leaders to meet later Thursday to assess their options and responses.
“We are recovering,” he said about passenger numbers. “We have two-thirds of normal traffic. That’s an important figure.”
He said that July 2020 passenger counts were at 3,133, which compares to July 2019 numbers of 5,722. Year-to-date counts are down about half, at 15,917 for 2020, compared to 35,345 for 2019.
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Before the pandemic, the Roswell Air Center recorded 59,340 boardings of commercial air travelers in 2019 and averaged about 115 commercial flights a month, according to the city’s 2019 annual report.
After air travel was allowed to resume this spring following COVID-19 lockdowns in March, American Airlines has been providing daily flights to and from Dallas-Fort Worth. It stopped the daily service to Phoenix in April.
Stark said that New Mexico quarantine regulations for out-of-state visitors have affected passenger numbers.
“We are still extremely hampered by the travel restrictions,” he said. “We get calls every day about the 14-day quarantine.”
Under current public health orders, many air and vehicular travelers from out-of-state are required to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival in New Mexico.
Fewer flights are likely to affect tourism and business, but Stark said it would have minimal effect on airport revenues. Owned by the city of Roswell, the Roswell Air Center receives airline passenger facility fees of about $4.50 per ticket holder.
An American Airlines media representative said the corporation does not know what will happen to flight service after Nov. 3.
“In terms of what happens after October, we are continually evaluating our schedule to match demand in this environment, but we don’t have anything more specific to share right now,” said Andrea Koos, senior manager of corporate communications.
The other 14 cities affected by the decision announced Thursday are Del Rio, Texas; Dubuque, Iowa; Florence, South Carolina; Greenville, North Carolina; Huntington, West Virginia; Joplin, Missouri; Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, Michigan; Lake Charles, Louisiana; New Haven, Connecticut; New Windsor, New York; Sioux City, Iowa; Springfield, Illinois; Stillwater, Oklahoma; and Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Southeast New Mexico travelers wanting air travel to Dallas do have other options. That includes flight service from the Cavern City Airport in Carlsbad. Brian Kondrad of Boutique Air said the carrier expects to have Dallas service for the foreseeable future.
American Airlines stated in its news release that the temporary removal of service is due to low demand and the expiration of service requirements established by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The law barred airlines that had received CARES funding from cutting service to cities that they had been flying to as of March 1, according to information on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. That minimum service requirement was in effect until Sept. 30, although the Transportation Department did have the option of extending it.
American Airlines announced in April that it had received $5.8 billion from the Payroll Support Program of the CARES Act. It also said that it intended to borrow additional money directly from the U.S. Treasury Department. At that time, the airlines said that no employee furloughs would occur prior to Sept. 30, in compliance with CARES guidelines. In July, it began negotiating with unions about employee reductions that could start in October.
Koos said she also did not know what would happen to employees working at the Roswell Air Center or the other 14 airports.
“We are still working through the impact that these schedule suspensions will have on team members or contractors at the affected airports,” she said.
AV Flight, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provides contract employees for American Airlines at the Roswell Air Center. An AV Flight manager in Roswell said information about the number of employees involved or impacts of the suspension of local flights could not be provided by the local office. A call to the AV Flight corporate office was not returned by press time.
Requests for information from Bos Security, based in Atlanta, Georgia, also were not answered Thursday. Bos Security holds the contract to provide security and baggage check services at the Roswell Air Center for the Transportation Security Administration.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.