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LAX service won't return

July 14, 2011 • Local News, News

City officials said Wednesday that the airline route between Roswell and Los Angeles International Airport will not be reinstated after an unsuccessful meeting with American Airline officials in Dallas.

Mayor Del Jurney, City Manager Larry Fry, and other officials met with American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines, representatives in late June to try to convince the airline to return LAX service to Roswell after it was discontinued about a year ago. The city did not offer the airline a deal, or a minimum revenue guarantee, at the meeting, Fry said. Instead, officials pointed to the success of the American Eagle route between Roswell and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, which still flies four flights daily with high ridership since operations began in 2007.

Unfortunately, Fry said, the airline didn’t bite, citing financial concerns.

“They don’t see it as being profitable,” Fry said. “At this point in time, it doesn’t seem very workable from their standpoint.”

American Eagle claimed it had lost $150,000 per month when it pulled LAX service in September 2010, a year after it began, due to low ridership. Monthly ridership had averaged only 39 percent, then later around 45 to 55 percent.

Bill Armstrong, the former president of the Chaves County Economic Development Foundation who originally advocated for the route and now fights for its reinstatement, said past ridership was low partly because the once-a-day flight take-off was at 7 a.m., which was fine for Roswell residents, but not for residents in surrounding communities, like Carlsbad, Ruidoso and Artesia, who had to wake up around 3 or 4 in the morning to catch the flight. So this time around, Armstrong advocated with the airline at the meeting for a mid-day flight that would likely boost the number of fliers.

“We felt that would have been a better routing,” he said. “However, we didn’t meet with any success.”

Armstrong is not giving up, though, he said. He says he may lobby other airlines to provide LAX service in the near future.

“It was very disappointing,” he said. “But as I told them, just because you say no doesn’t mean we won’t ask again soon.”

Pursuing LAX service is well worth the effort, Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation president Bob Donnell says, considering the economic boost it would provide the city from having leisure travelers renting cars, staying in hotels and eating in Roswell restaurants. LAX service would also allow Roswell businesses to expand West, he says, and would lure other big businesses to Roswell.

“We have heard from a number of our businesses here that more businesses are needing to go westbound for customers,” he said, adding, “We’ll continue bringing the case because it is important that we pursue this opportunity.”

emiller@roswell-record.com

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