Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Advanced Air to start flights between Albuquerque and Las Cruces

California-based airline Advanced Air will begin offering direct flights between the Albuquerque International Sunport and the Las Cruces International Airport on Jan. 16. (Courtesy of Advanced Air)_u

In a little over a week, New Mexicans will be able to get from Albuquerque to Las Cruces — and vice versa — in under an hour.

California-based airline Advanced Air will be flying a direct passenger flight between the Albuquerque International Sunport and the Las Cruces International Airport. It’s the first time that the route will be serviced in 15 years. The city of Las Cruces made the announcement last month.

Starting Jan. 16, Advanced Air will fly the route seven times a week, twice on Mondays and Fridays and once on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“This new service is exciting news for both Albuquerque and Las Cruces, and an indicator of the industry’s continued recovery,” said Sunport Business Development Manager Daniel Jiron in a statement. “Connecting the two largest cities in our state brings our communities together and creates a multitude of business and other opportunities.”

Las Cruces is the latest New Mexico city added to Advanced Air’s roster. Currently, the airline also flies out of Albuquerque, Silver City and Gallup. It flies direct routes between Silver City and Albuquerque, started in 2017, and between Gallup and Phoenix.

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Las Cruces International Airport manager Andy Hume described the new route as an “opportunity to make a big state a little smaller.”

Regional airline Advanced Air also flies to a limited number of locations in Nevada, Arizona and California. Advanced Air president and founder Levi Stockton — also a pilot for the company — said that the goal is to focus on Southwest destinations.

The New Mexico Rural Air Service Enhancement Act, a grant program passed in 2021, is funding the passenger air service program in Las Cruces. Gallup was the first recipient of the grant.

“We’ve seen a really good start (in Gallup),” Stockton said.

Advanced Air started flying to Gallup in August 2022. Its route to Silver City is subsidized by a different federal program, and several of their other routes also receive government funding.

Sen. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Taos, originally introduced the RASE Act. The Las Cruces route, he said, shows the program is gaining “momentum.”

“So far, it’s really taken off,” Gonzales said.

Gonzalez said that in medium-sized or rural airports in New Mexico, direct flights to bigger cities like Albuquerque are not only used for tourism and recreation. They can also help people seeking medical care in bigger cities — turning two- to three-day trips for treatment into just a single day, Gonzalez said.

Hume added that the new route will help businesses in both Las Cruces and Albuquerque that might require commuting between the cities.

“When we talk about a six- to seven-hour round trip on the road, you lose productivity, you lose people hours,” Hume said. “It provides an additional option to perhaps conduct business more efficiently.”

While the initial focus, Hume said, is to get the Las Cruces/Albuquerque route up and running, he said that eventually the airport would like to add more routes within New Mexico and even beyond. A 2019 feasibility study, which pointed to interest in adding a commercial flight to Albuquerque, also showed some residents wanted stops in Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth.

The Advanced Air flights between Las Cruces and Albuquerque start at $85 for a one-way ticket, with a discount for a bulk purchase of 10 flights.

“Anytime we can enhance travel in New Mexico … it’s a win-win for everyone,” Gonzales said.

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