The New Mexican 

As Santa Fe Municipal Airport gears up for daily regional jet service to start June 11, American Eagle says flights between here and Dallas are “selling fairly well.”

Airline spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said she couldn’t give out specific information “for competitive reasons,” but said “the first couple days around kickoff are very full.”

Two flights per day are scheduled, with arrival from Dallas at 11:45 a.m. and departure to the Texas city at 12:10 p.m.

Huguely confirmed that promotional fares for flights from Dallas have be offered at less than $100. That’s a little cheaper than tickets from Albuquerque to Dallas.

Santa Fe airport manager Jim Montman said earlier this week that information on American Airlines’ Web site showed 70 percent of seats to Santa Fe in the first two weeks of the service were already “unavailable,” which means they’re sold.

Two of the first four flights to Santa Fe have no seats available, and two had only one seat left each. “They might be full by now,” he added.

The first three outbound flights from Santa Fe to Dallas, however, were only 50 percent full, which Montman found unsettling. “We need local people to use the service,” he said. “It’s a matter of use it or lose it.”

American Eagle planned to provide the service for 60 days before deciding if it will continue, Huguely said.

Huguely, along with several travel writers from the Dallas and Chicago areas, will fly to Santa Fe on June 13 or 14 and spend several days in Santa Fe on a familiarization tour, seeing what there is to do and visiting local restaurants.

“This is what we typically do for a new market,” she said.

At Santa Fe’s airport, American Eagle has erected signs in the terminal and brought in additional equipment in preparation for the planned flights. On Friday, “air stairs” were delivered for use in boarding and deboarding passengers and crew.

Montman said the new service will mean more business for rental car agencies and a shuttle that services the airport.

It also means the Santa Fe Airport Grill, owned by Lisa Van Allen, will reopen for breakfast and lunch. It closed after United Express stopped service to Santa Fe in January 2008.

“We will reopen on June 7,” Van Allen said. “We are delighted American Eagle is stepping up and offering this route. We hope it will lead to more routes in the future. I would love to see a flight to Los Angeles or Burbank.”

Regional jet service between Santa Fe and Dallas “will definitely help” Santa Fe hotels, said Alfred Matter, general manager of the Eldorado Hotel.

But Matter is not entirely satisfied with the airline’s rate structure.

“I’ve been monitoring rates, and I’ve sent a couple of e-mails to American Eagle pointing out that if you’re flying to the East Coast, it’s substantially more expensive flying out of Santa Fe rather than Albuquerque,” Matter said.

He said a price difference of $40 between flying out of Santa Fe and flying Albuquerque to Dallas and then onward would be OK, but a price difference of $175, as some ticket prices are structured, is too high.

The Eldorado Hotel, Matter said, is offering those guests who fly into Santa Fe on American Eagle a $30 house credit for use in the hotel’s restaurant or spa. Travelers will also get triple air miles if they fly into Santa Fe on American Eagle and stay at the Eldorado.

Kim Klinkrot, general manager of the El Rey Inn, said she was “excited” about the new air service and has great hopes for it.

“It won’t have an immediate impact, but it will certainly help,” said Mike Shofitt, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott in Santa Fe. “It’s a positive sign, and in this economy, we need all the positive signs we can get.”

American Eagle and Delta Air Lines in mid-2007 both had announced their intent to begin direct flights from Santa Fe to various cities.

However, their plans were delayed by the federal environmental review process. Subsequent economic conditions led the airline industry overall to drop some routes.

In February of this year, Delta decided not to proceed with its planned Santa Fe flights. A spokesman at the time said Delta was “at the limit on new flights for this summer.”