Albuquerque or bust: Feds revisit air service bid

Passengers disembark from a Great Lakes plane that arrived at the Clovis Municipal Airport from Albuquerque. (CNJ file photo)

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Clovis’ air service deal with Great Lakes Aviation has been grounded.

City and state officials raised concerns after the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Wyoming-based company a contract to provide air service between Clovis and Denver instead of the city’s choice — Albuquerque.

The $2 million contract awarded last month to provide service for Clovis and Silver City under a federally subsidized essential air service program was rescinded Wednesday.

The contract called for Great Lakes Aviation to provide 18 one-stop round trips per week between Clovis and Denver beginning May 1.

The Clovis City Commission favored 12 nonstop round trips per week to Albuquerque and five one-stop round trips per week to Denver.

City Manager Joe Thomas said the DOT would advertise for bids for a 20-day period.

Silver City wanted trips to Phoenix and Albuquerque.

The DOT said in a release having Great Lakes fly to Denver and Phoenix was nearly $500,000 less than an Albuquerque-only option.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., a Silver City native, spoke with the DOT about the situation.

Jude McCartin, a spokeswoman for Bingaman, said the department was apparently trying to make the best fiscal choice but misunderstood the needs of Grant County and Clovis.

“I think they know very well what the goal is now,” McCartin said. “It’s to get the best possible contract and the best possible service for the Clovis community. I think the DOT knows there was a problem with the last contract, and they will work hard not to repeat.”

Roger Hatcher, chair of Clovis’ aviation board, said he personally thought Denver was a better option, but he understood the desire for Albuquerque as a hub.

“I feel like (Denver) opens us up to the national level a lot more,” Hatcher said. “But we have a lot of business people who do a lot of business in Albuquerque. Denver’s of no use to them.”

Great Lakes, which beat out Hawaii-based Pacific Wings, has provided air service for Clovis for two years with two daily round trips to Albuquerque on 19-passenger Beech 1900-D aircraft, as well as trips to Amarillo and Denver. In the first nine months of 2006, 3,216 passengers used the Clovis-Albuquerque service.