Home News Local News City’s efforts to keep American Airlines flight service continue

City’s efforts to keep American Airlines flight service continue

American Airlines officials have said the corporation continues to lose millions a day and they are working for additional pandemic relief funds from the federal government. (Daily Record File Photo)

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In efforts to keep American Airlines’ flight service in Roswell, city staff has agreed to waive one month of parking fees for its airplanes at the Roswell Air Center and is asking city councilors to consider forgiving an additional two months’ worth of fees.

“American Airlines reached out to Roswell in November and asked if the city would be willing to waive the parking fees for three months for its planes as a sign of our partnership,” said City Manager Joe Neeb. “The intent of the request was to show the American decision-makers that Roswell appreciates the partnership and is willing to help American in a small way to hold on and keep flying.”

The U.S. Congress has not provided additional pandemic relief funding for the commercial airline industry since the original Payroll Support Program for airlines was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. That passed Congress and was signed by President Donald Trump in March.

According to an Oct. 22 financial announcement by American Airlines Group Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas, the corporation lost about $44 million a day from August to September, which was a reduction from abut $58 million a day in losses for the second quarter, as the pandemic has slowed passenger demand and as most U.S. states and many countries have enacted travel restrictions. Since March, it has removed 150 planes from its fleet and has furloughed 19,000 employees, with another 20,000 opting for early retirements or long-term leaves.

U.S. airlines have worked to secure more funding from Congress, but, as of press time, federal legislators were still negotiating a relief package.

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In late August, when a minimum service agreement that was part of the Payroll Support Program expired, American Airlines announced that it would suspend flights to cities that had little demand. It originally announced it would be halting service to 15 smaller communities from Oct. 3 until Nov. 7. Roswell was on that list.

But Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh, Air Center Director Scott Stark and state legislators from the area urged American Airlines to keep the daily flights to and from Dallas. It had halted the Phoenix flight service in April.

City officials said in August that they had told American Airlines they were willing to negotiate a way to guarantee service here until March, even if it meant that the city had to provide a minimum revenue guarantee to the carrier.

American Airlines decided about six days later to reverse its decision about suspending service here, and Kintigh said recently that it had committed to continuing to fly to and from the Roswell Air Center until the end of December.

The commercial airline also changed its decision about halting flights to Joplin, Missouri, and Sioux City, Iowa, because those cities qualified for the Essential Service program of the federal government. Flights to Stillwater, Oklahoma, also remained when that city engaged in negotiation with American. In recent months, some of the other cities affected also have seen some flights restored.

Neeb said Thursday that the carrier now runs two flights in and out of the Roswell Air Center each day, having discontinued the third daily flight for now.

“American has agreed to hold discussions with Roswell to bring back the previous service model, with the hope of expansion at the end of the pandemic,” Neeb said.

The fees for American Airlines to store its planes at the Roswell Air Center total about $58,000 a month, Neeb said, and he made an administrative decision recently to waive the October fee.

Now he wants city councilors to decide about whether they will authorize the waiving of November and December fees, with Neeb saying that the city will check to be sure that flight service here remains satisfactory before signing off on any forbearance.

He said the issue should be heard at City Council committee meetings in the upcoming weeks.

Stark said the amount of parking fees could vary as American Airlines takes planes from storage or brings them in. Right now, they have about 150 planes of the 510 aircraft stored at the local airfield.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.