Nonstop daily commercial flights between Santa Fe and Dallas-Fort Worth will start in December, city government announced Monday.
American Eagle, American Airlines' regional affiliate, also will offer nonstop weekend flights to and from Los Angeles. American Eagle will use 44-seat jets for the service, which will start in mid-December.
New commercial flights for Santa Fe using bigger planes became possible in June, when the Federal Aviation Administration approved upgrading the Santa Fe airport to "Class 1" status.
The approval followed five years of upgrades at the airport, including obtaining an aviation fire truck and elimination of the airport's longstanding prairie dog problem.
Class 1 allows commercial planes with up to 60 passengers. The previous limit was 30 passengers for commercial flights, although bigger general aviation aircraft have long been allowed to land in Santa Fe.
Currently, the only commer- cial flights at the airport are three commuter flights to Denver.
Mayor David Coss called the American Eagle flights "good news" for Santa Fe residents.
He said the flights should promote economic development as well as providing expanded travel options. "I commend our airport staff for this accomplishment and welcome American Airlines to Santa Fe," Coss said.
Efforts to reach a representative of American were unsuccessful. But in a news release, American Eagle president and CEO Peter Bowler said his company is excited "to be able to provide Santa Fe and the surrounding communities with its first commercial jet service in decades."
The daily flights to Dallas-Fort Worth will depart Santa Fe at 12:55 p.m. and are scheduled to arrive at DFW at 3:35 p.m. Flights from Dallas-Forth Worth to Santa Fe depart at 11:25 a.m. and arrive at 12:25 p.m.
There will be flights from Los Angeles to Santa Fe on Fridays and Sundays, departing LAX at 11:15 a.m. and arriving at 2:15 p.m. Flights from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, also on Fridays and Sundays only, will leave at 2:45 p.m. and arrive at 4 p.m.
According to American's reservation Web site, a roundtrip ticket between Santa Fe and Dallas-Fort Worth will cost $257. The roundtrip cost for the Los Angeles-Santa Fe flights is $494.
The Dallas-Fort Worth flights are scheduled to start Dec. 13, with the Los Angeles service set to begin a day later.
Santa Fe aviation director Jim Montman said the city also is having discussions with one other airline about new commercial flights.
But he said the airport only has room for one more major airline. Class 1 status "does not open the airport to every airline out there," Montman said. "We have very limited facilities."
The prospect of bigger commercial flights has long provoked concern about noise and airport expansion among some Santa Feans who live near the airport.
Montman said the jets used by American Eagle are "state of the art" when it comes to noise reduction and noted that some corporate airplanes that already use the airport "are as large or larger than these aircraft."
He also emphasized that the American Eagle flights will add just one additional flight in and out of the airport most of the week. He said the airport can have as many as 400 flights or "operations" a day.
"This is not a huge increase in operations or noise or anything else," he said.
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