Air traffic from Cavern City Air Terminal in Carlsbad to Albuquerque and Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) remained stable in the final two months of 2021, according to data from the City of Carlsbad and the Carlsbad Department of Development (CDOD).
CDOD Executive Director John Waters said passenger traffic from Carlsbad increased by 29% from November 2018 to November 2021 and 40% from December 2018 to December 2021.
Water said 1,040 passengers were registered in November 2021 and 1,072 in December 2021.
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“If you go back to 2018, you look at the same numbers in the month of November, we had 808 and we had 768 in the month of December,” he said.
Brian Kondrad, Boutique Air’s vice president of operations, said vacation travel out of Carlsbad “boomed” before the COVID-19 Omicron variant worried air travelers in January.
Boutique Air began operating air services at the Cavern City Air Terminal in 2015 through an Essential Air Service (EAS) agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), read data from the City of Carlsbad.
The Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), passed in 1978, gave airlines almost complete freedom as to which markets to serve domestically and what rates to charge for service, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) website.
“The EAS program is designed to ensure that small communities served by certified airlines before airline deregulation maintain a minimum level of scheduled air services,” the website said.
The City of Carlsbad and Boutique Air have extended the EAS agreement in 2021 for a period of two years.
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Boutique offers up to 12 flights from Carlsbad to Albuquerque and six flights to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).
Waters said flights to larger airports meant passengers could transfer to larger airlines without the hassle of driving to El Paso, Lubbock or Albuquerque.
“It is certainly beneficial for people living in Eddy County and around Eddy County to use our airport. It’s quite cost effective to fly from here to DFW if you need to do business one day,” he said.
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“We are pleased to see that the number of commercial flights to and from our airport has generally increased in recent months, and that certainly seems in line with all the increase in car traffic that we have seen of late as an indicator of economic recovery,” said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway.
Waters said the passenger numbers indicated a stronger economy for Carlsbad. He indicated that other factors are being considered when determining whether economic activity has increased since 2020, when local economies were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We look at the visitor numbers in the municipality. Our traffic levels in southern Eddy County have risen to well above pre-COVID (-19) levels. We look at whether the gross income tax (GRT) in the various communities is starting to get strong again here and there. Lodger’s load is something else that’s slowly picking up again,” says Waters.
“It’s great to see the airport being used. We have a rich history of air travel to our community and it’s nice to see people using it again.”
Chad Ingram, Chief Executive Officer of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, said Cavern City Air Terminal offers convenience and efficiency to tourists and business professionals flying to Carlsbad.
“From the perspective of the Chamber, it’s a good thing when we can fly people to our community,” he said.
“Tourists from other parts of the country who can fly to Dallas or Albuquerque and then take the plane to us, (and) bring business and fame to our wonderful community,” said Ingram.
Kondrad said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted travel from Carlsbad in 2020.
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Boutique Air predicted a stronger traveling audience in 2022.
“We are forecasting higher numbers and returning to 2019 numbers for 2021,” Kondrad said.
Ingram expressed his optimism about more Boutique Air flights from Carlsbad in 2022.
“I hope we see those numbers increase,” he said.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at MSmith@currentargus.com or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.