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Carlsbad Current-Argus: Roswell air service to boost economy

ROSWELL, N.M. — Beginning in March 2016, American Airlines at the Roswell International Air Center will start daily, nonstop commercial flight service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich applauded American Airlines' decision to begin daily flights between the two destinations in a news release.

"Flights between Roswell and Phoenix will help make travel to and from Southeastern New Mexico more convenient,” Udall said, saying it would open more business opportunities for the entire region, which in turn would help create jobs.

"The decision to establish direct flights between Roswell and Phoenix is great news for New Mexico's economy," Heinrich said. "Nonstop flights attract businesses and visitors alike, and will increase economic opportunities for Chaves County and the southeastern part of the state."

Jennifer Brady Griego, director of the Roswell International Air Center, said the new flight addition is a big deal not just for Roswell, but for the surrounding communities.

"It provides all the surrounding communities with service to the west coast," Griego said. "We have been fortunate to have surrounding communities like Carlsbad, Artesia and Ruidoso support us."

Griego said people can already start booking their flights.

"Just peeking in on the bookings, some of the flights are already looking pretty good," she said.

Griego said prices will vary depending on the day and when the reservation is booked. She also said that at least 40 connecting flights are possible now with the service to Phoenix.

Udall and Heinrich, who have passed legislation to support the aviation industry in the state, said the decision is something that will positively affect the New Mexico economy.

In October, the senators first announced the awarding of a $450,000 federal grant for Roswell to begin nonstop air travel service from the Roswell airport to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

According to a news release from October, the grant was funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program. Udall and Heinrich, along with U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed their support in July for Roswell's application of the grant.

“Transportation options and accessibility are key factors in attracting and keeping business in New Mexico," Heinrich said in an October news release.

In addition to the grant awarded in October, Heinrich and Udall announced a $9 million award in June to the Roswell International Air Center to rehabilitate 5,000 feet of a runway.

They have also been responsible for more than $14 million in grants to support the air transportation in New Mexico, Wednesday's new release said.

"The grants, which were awarded to Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Lea County, Questa, Roswell, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation, were to fund repairs and maintenance, runway extensions, emissions reduction, and strategic planning," a news release said.

"I'm proud to work to expand our transportation options and connect New Mexico communities to the rest of the nation." Udall said.