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Phoenix flights to return to Roswell

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An American Airlines representative said Phoenix flights at the Roswell Air Center will resume April 2. (Daily Record File Photo)

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American Airlines will resume its Phoenix flights at the Roswell Air Center in two months, a year after the coronavirus pandemic caused the airline to discontinue the service.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh made the announcement at the beginning of the Roswell City Council meeting on Thursday night.

“Staff has worked hard on this,” he said, as city councilors applauded the news.

On Friday, Kintigh said that American Airlines “concluded it is in their interest to resume service. They never said that they were going to permanently terminate it. It was always a suspension.”

He added that the airline received a second round of federal relief funding in December and is anticipating receiving more funding in the coming months.

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The city of Roswell was not required to provide any additional funding to support American beyond the waiver of three months of aircraft storage fees totaling about $168,000. The waivers were approved by the Roswell City Council on Jan. 14.

Kintigh said he has not heard whether Dallas flights will increase to three times a day in the spring. Daily flights to Dallas-Fort Worth have been reduced during the pandemic.

“We are hopeful, but I will be honest with you that I am grateful for two a day right now,” Kintigh said.

Roswell Air Center Director Scott Stark said he expects one incoming and one outgoing Phoenix flight each day once service returns in April.

“AA sees Roswell as a partner in their success,” Stark said. “Reviving the Phoenix route will aid in a robust recovery in air travel for Roswell and help support their Phoenix hub.”

The Phoenix flights were halted on April 6, 2020, as consumer demand declined and COVID-related travel restrictions went into effect.

City officials and local business leaders have held ongoing negotiations with American Airlines officials during the past year, which increased in their intensity on Aug. 20 after the airline announced that it planned to suspend the Dallas flights for at least a month starting Oct. 7 because the first round of COVID relief funding was expiring, without any renewal offered by Congress at that time. The company also identified 14 other markets where service would be suspended.

The airline reversed its suspension decision for Roswell a few days later and also decided to continue service at some of the other 14 markets during the next weeks and months.

Roswell leaders said at the time that they thought part of the reason for the airline’s reversal was that the company realized that its relationship with the city and the Roswell Air Center went beyond commercial flights, as the airline is storing about 200 aircraft here.

City leaders also said that they made it clear that they would be willing to provide some type of financial incentive for Dallas flights to continue and for the Phoenix flights to resume, if necessary. Only the storage fee waivers have occurred so far.

An American Airlines representative said that people can purchase tickets for Phoenix flights now.

“We’re constantly evaluating our network based on supply and demand, and we’ve been making regular schedule adjustments throughout the pandemic,” said Nichelle Tait, a corporate communications representative. “While demand remains low relative to the past, we are looking toward spring and summer travel and plan to resume our flights between Phoenix and Roswell on April 2, complementing existing service from DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth).”

Although American Airlines received about $4 billion more from the second round of federal coronavirus-relief funding that was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 signed Dec. 27, the payroll funding expires March 31. American Airlines has issued a notice required by unions that as many as 30,000 employee furloughs could occur in April if additional federal funding is not provided.

American announced Jan. 28 that its fourth-quarter 2020 net losses from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 were $2.2 billion and its 12-month net loss totaled $8.9 billion. But it also indicated that it had been able to reduce its daily cash burn from $100 million in April 2020 to $30 million by the fourth quarter.

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.