FARMINGTON — Declining performance figures at Four Corners Regional Airport have at least one Farmington city councilor worried.
While services and infrastructure at Farmington's airport continue to improve, falling departure numbers, increasing numbers of delayed or cancelled flights, and a stagnant regional economy continue to paint a bleak picture.
"I continue to look at the reports that come out of our Airport Advisory Commission," said Councilor Jason Sandel. "(Departures are) steadily declining. We've reached a 24 to 30 month low. I'm very concerned about the future of the airport. I'm concerned with Great Lakes' late arrivals and cancellations. I'm concerned about where we're headed."
Departure statistics for Great Lakes Airlines, Farmington's only commercial air service provider, from January to May are about 15 percent lower than last year's figures from the same period, said Todd Gressick, airport manager, in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
"We did lose the flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix," Gressick said. "Great Lakes' whole network is down about 14 percent. People just aren't spending as much."
For Sandel, it seems, nothing at Four Corners Regional Airport is being run as it should, citing poor service at Zebra's Sports Grill, high fuel costs, and the delays and cancelled flights.
Gressick said that he has been reaching out to a number of airlines about bringing flights to Farmington, but has received little to no interest.
"The main reason is that the overall income level in this area is low as opposed to Durango-Pagosa," he said.
Nevertheless, work on the airport continues to move forward, Gressick said.
"We're moving forward with the master plan," he said. "We should have a draft ready in the next two months. We're refreshing our (Great Lakes) terminal to bring the airport forward from the 1980s."
The work is far from over.
"It's a very tough market out there," Gressick said. "We aren't an Albuquerque or a Phoenix."
For Mayor Tommy Roberts, the priority lies in improving service while attempting to spur economic development around the airport.
"I think we do need to be concerned about the reliability of services," Roberts said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "Historically, we've had a good relationship with Great Lakes. In my opinion, they've been a good partner."
Improving the airport will require collaboration with Great Lakes, said Councilman Dan Darnell.
"Instead of throwing stones, we should be asking them what can we do," he said. "The thing is, they have a commitment with us because we're the maintenance hub, but they could be gone tomorrow. What's happening in the small-plane, rural aviation (sector) across the country paints a bleak picture. Rural commuter routes are basically nonexistent. We are so fortunate that we have Great Lakes."