SANTA FE, NM - A recent aviation study commissioned by the New Mexico Tourism Department (NMTD) and the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) identified several opportunities that could help restore air service and establish a stronger aviation infrastructure for New Mexico.

According to the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA), aviation activity plummeted from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic within the country and New Mexico. By the end of April 2020, security screenings at U.S. airports was just 5 percent of normal demand from the previous year. As of January 2021, New Mexico saw a year-over-year decrease in air passengers of 64 percent.

New Mexico’s strategic position as a growing outdoor recreation destination, a surplus of regional jets, an end to the shortage of pilots, and the emergence of teleworking were all cited as opportunities New Mexico can employ to restore and develop its aviation industry.

“Through a collaborative research project with the Department of Transportation, an innovative path forward for New Mexico’s commercial aviation sector was explored to buildout new routes and market them most effectively," Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer said. "Investing in aviation business development efforts will position New Mexico more competitively coming out of the pandemic. Securing new direct flights with a sustainable model will support tourism recovery and enhance quality of life for our fellow New Mexicans."

The study also identifies marketing and incentive programs and air service development as recommendations for a statewide air service market strategy. NMTD and NMDOT will be collaborating to identify and deploy strategies and tactics to develop New Mexico's aviation for a post-COVID economy.

“The Transportation Department’s Aviation Division is passionate about reenergizing and growing air service capabilities in order to offer yet another mode of transportation to in and out of state travelers,” Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval said. “Partnering with Tourism is a solid investment in the state’s aviation and tourism industry.”

"The study emphasized the importance of local aviation incentives, such as fee waivers, rent waivers, marketing, ground handling support, and minimum revenue guarantees. There is legislation going through the session right now that provides yet another economic development tool for attracting and sustaining new direct routes, especially for our rural airports," said Schroer.

Read the full report here.