- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Passenger traffic at the Albuquerque International Sunport appears likely to go in 2015, which would mark the eighth straight year of decline at New Mexico’s largest airport.

As of September, activity at the Sunport was down 4.8 percent from last year, reported the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1kkymN6 ).

It’s not just passenger numbers that are in decline — the average number of daily departures has fallen by about 40 percent since 2008.

Forecasts predict small dips in traffic before things begin to level out in 2017, according to Sunport spokesman Dan Jiron.

But by other metrics, the Albuquerque airport is doing quite well. An industry analyst says the it’s very accessible, one of the most important metrics for airports, and offers direct flights to Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and New York.

“That’s what’s critical and Albuquerque is at the top of the pile as far as that goes,” said aviation industry consultant Michael Boyd, president of Colorado-based Boyd Group International, whose firm tracks activity at 175 airports around the country.

The direct flights to major U.S. cities mean travelers as far away as Beijing can find a one-stop trip to Albuquerque.

And the passenger decline is an industry-wide phenomenon caused by more efficient flight scheduling, according to Jiron.

“In the case of Albuquerque, the restructuring of Southwest has had an effect on traffic, that’s the alpha and omega of it,” Boyd said.

Southwest accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the Sunport’s traffic and began getting rid of short-haul flights a few years ago. That meant ending its Albuquerque service to places like El Paso, Lubbock, Midland and Tucson.

Federal restrictions that expired in 2014 also allowed the carrier to eliminate many of its stops near its Dallas base.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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