SANTA FE - American Eagle will depend on Santa Fearea residents to fill its flights to and from the City Different when the airline begins service in December, company officials say.
"It's going to be important that we have local traffic," Tanicca Morgan, national business development manager for American Eagle, told local business people at the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce last week.
American Eagle, the regional affiliate of American Airlines, will begin daily nonstop flights from Santa Fe to Dallas/Fort Worth on Dec. 13, and Friday and Sunday flights to Los Angeles on Dec. 14.
American Eagle is targeting corporate and leisure travelers for the flights, Morgan said, and will use a 44-seater Embraer 140 airplane.
Early ticket sales so far have been "very good, very strong," Morgan said, with about 68 percent of all purchases made by Santa Fe-area residents.
The majority of American Eagle tickets are being bought with Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles as destinations, Morgan said.
Most passengers making connections say they are going to Maui, New York, Nashville or Washington, D.C.
"We have to tell our friends and associates to fly out of Santa Fe to make this work. We're a very seasonal town, and we can't rely on tourists to make this work," Chamber of Commerce president Simon Brackley said.
The chamber is creating a Web site, www.flysantafe.net, he said, that will have information about booking agents, airport parking and rental cars. The site will be running in about a month.
American Eagle will fly out of the Santa Fe Municipal Airport, on more than 2,000 acres on the city's southwest side.
City officials have pursued increased commercial service for years. In June, the airport's federal certification was upgraded from Class 3 to Class 1, making it eligible for larger commercial jets.
In addition to American Eagle, Delta Airlines announced this summer it will begin nonstop daily service on Dec. 10 between Santa Fe and Salt Lake City and between Santa Fe and Los Angeles.
"It's a major undertaking for a small airport to take on two airlines of this size," city aviation director Jim Montman said.
Businesses at the airport can expect a boost from the new flight traffic. Montman said Santa Fe's rental car agencies earn about 35 percent of their income from air passengers and "we expect that to change radically."
Increases similar to those in Roswell, where rental companies Avis and Hertz doubled their flight-oriented business when American Eagle began flights in that city Sept. 5, are likely to happen, he said.