Great Lakes Pulls Planes; American Eagle, Delta Awaiting
What was a newly-resurgent effort to
bring residents of The City Different a choice of air carriers is
now floundering. Officials with Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF)
say as of next month, the airport serving New Mexico's capital city
will lose what is currently its only scheduled airline service.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Great Lakes Airlines notified
the city recently it will suspend its thrice-daily turboprop
service between Santa Fe and Denver, CO on December 10.
That's when Delta Air Lines was supposed to start flights to Los
Angeles and Salt Lake City from Santa Fe... but, alas, those
flights -- in addition to planned service on American Eagle to
Dallas and Los Angeles, scheduled to start December 13 -- are on
hold due to bureaucratic wrangling.
The carriers are awaiting an environmental assessment report for
the Federal Aviation Administration, now being carried out by a
contractor, according to SAF airport manager Jim Montman.
"There have been a number of errors made in that process,"
Montman said. "Specifically, a number of federal agencies ... that
the FAA believes need to be contacted" have responded slowly --
including the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and
the Army Corps of Engineers, reports the New Mexican.
"Letters have been sent out to them," Montman said. "There have
been some slow responses."
Calling the situation "very fluid," Montman isn't sure when
American Eagle and Delta will be able to start flights. The news
leaves those carriers in a bind, as well.
"We thought everything was good to go, but in the last day or
so, I found out we will not be starting service on December 13,"
said American Eagle spokeswoman Andrea Hugely. "From what I
understand from the airport, some paperwork needs to be completed
Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott says the carrier has bumped its
planned start date to sometime in February. Hugely says that's
roughly the time American Eagle anticipates starting service, too,
assuming the report is complete by then.
As for Great Lakes, Montman says he's trying to convince that
carrier to stay on at SAF until the other two airlines are ready to
come onboard. The airline says it pulled its planes from SAF to
handle contracts for other cities... but according to Montman, "as
I understand, those contracts are still being worked on or are
going through the approval process with the cities involved and the
Department of Transportation."
In other words, Great Lakes faces similar regulatory glitches as
Delta and American Eagle... which may bode well in the short-term
"The possibility of their continuing to provide air service to
Santa Fe is very real," Montman said of Great Lakes. "I'm in daily
discussion with their chairman and CEO about that."