EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso wants to reestablish direct flights to Mexico, something the business community and City Council members say will boost business and tourism and help families reconnect with loved ones across the border.
The council on Tuesday approved a three-year, $225,000 contract with InterVISTAS Consulting with an option to extend to five years for a total cost of $375,000.
The company will help El Paso International Airport officials prepare for upcoming meetings with 15 airline companies in October. The goal is to persuade them to offer non-stop flights from El Paso to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Chihuahua City.
The airport used to have direct flights to Mexico, but airlines stopped flying there from El Paso more than a decade ago, city officials said. If a West Texas or Southern New Mexico resident wants to fly to those cities, he or she must first fly to Houston or Dallas, or drive to the Juarez, Mexico, airport.
“Often what we see when talking about economic development – whether it’s bringing in retail, a new grocery store, whatever it is – people have a challenge understanding that our region and our economy is one that crosses borders,” said City Rep. Peter Svarzbein. “You can’t just look at the El Paso (metropolitan statistical area) stopping at the border. You have to look at Juarez and Chihuahua and Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico to understand who the audience would be for these international flights and other opportunities.”
The city also wants to add direct flights to New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Detroit and Nashville, and have multiple takeoffs to popular destinations already offered like Austin, Las Vegas and Chicago.
Not having direct flights to Mexico hinders the speed of commerce in a region where many Fortune 500 companies – including Detroit-based automakers – have manufacturing operations in border cities, business leaders said. It’s also an inconvenience for growing new businesses.
“It’s critical that we have that ability to fly in prospects, executives, engineers,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association. “They have a limited amount of time. Sometimes you want to fly-in in the morning and leave in the afternoon. You can’t do that if you have multiple connections or have to deal with traffic at the border. Having direct flights to major cities in Mexico is very important; it puts us in a better logistical position in the minds of corporations.”
Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city must expand its aviation reach to persuade more companies to relocate to the border.
“The bottom line for any company is return on investment. That could be time taken to get from destination A to destination B. Maybe it’s a direct flight with no change of planes; that has a lot to do with it,” he said. “If they lose two days of the week for travel, it does not become advantageous to them.”
City staff said it conducted a study in 2019 that showed a significant number of travelers crossed the border daily to catch flights. The city is updating the study now and staff expects preliminary results to show that the number is even higher today.