Each day thousands of people fly in and out of the Albuquerque International Sunport, but in 2008 the airport no longer offered international flights.
“That was really due to lack of use,” said Nyika Allen, Director of Aviation.
Since November, the Sunport began offering flights to Guadalajara and just announced flights to Chihuahua starting in June.
“We talked about what destinations would be valuable for your average New Mexican,” said Allen.
She said Mexico was chosen because of the number of people here with family in Mexico. The non-stop flights on Volaris’ airplanes seat just over 170 people.
Since the launch, however, on average the flights only have around 50 people—less than a third full—and the airport is waving things like baggage, rental and landing fees.
“If we can’t get those numbers up we may see a decline in the number of times we fly the flight or they could cancel it altogether,” said Allen.
The Hispano Chamber was a big push behind getting the flights. “Mexico is our neighbor,” said Yuriria Morales, International Markets and Tourism Director.
Despite the low ridership, Morales said getting the flights to coming to Albuquerque is huge for tourism and the economy. “Anytime someone comes even one day, they go to a restaurant, they go to buy jewelry, they go to Old Town, they go to Sandia Peak Tramway, so they’re spending money,” she said.
To boost interest, the Sunport is marketing on social media and has billboards around the city.
“The dream is, if we have more international flights and they keep coming, then we’ll have a dedicated international gate,” said Allen.
The Sunport says Guadalajara is close to the popular resort town Puerto Vallarta, and the Chihuahua flight will have connections to Mexico City. A spokesperson for the Sunport said because Volaris wasn’t seeing ridership to support twice-weekly flights, they now fly out on Mondays, two to three times a month.