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Future of El Paso International Airport: What new flights could be coming

EL PASO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

As the El Paso International Airport gets ready to celebrate its 90th anniversary next year, director of aviation Monica Lombraña is preparing for the airport's future.

"I think you're going to see changes, in terms of we're definitely updating and we're staying with the times, but we're never going to let go of the history," Lombraña told CBS 4 in a recent interview.

One of the biggest ways the airport is growing is by adding non-stop flights.

Since 2015, direct flights have been added to seven new U.S. cities, and that list could be growing.

"I hear that all the time, 'Why can't we have more non-stops?' We work tirelessly, diligently throughout the year, just this year alone, we've had 21 meetings," Lombraña said.

But recruiting airlines to El Paso can sometimes be a challenge.

"I can't just go and say I want a non-stop, say to here and Seattle, just because, I have to show the route is going to be viable, be sustainable for them, going to make money for them, because again, they're for profit businesses as well," Lombraña said.

It takes hours to drive from El Paso to other major cities in the southwest. Locals depend on the airport to travel long distances out of the Borderland. But Lombraña said sometimes, the location makes it even harder to get new flights.

"It works both ways -- geography, there's a plus -- but then there's also the negative in terms of meeting with the airlines, they say they don't want to take an aircraft out for the better part of the day," Lombraña.

In August, the city of El Paso hired a consulting firm to help bring in new non-stop flights.

At a recent city council meeting, airport leaders shared a list of potential destinations:

U.S. Cities:

Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, San Francisco

International Cities:

Cancun, Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Monterrey.

Lombraña said as the airport attracts new flights, it's important for people to fill those seats.

"As an airport, it isn't just challenging to attract new non-stop destinations, it's a challenge to retain them, because if people aren't buying those seats, filling those seats, airlines aren't going to stay," Lombraña said.

Airport leaders are working with business leaders, like the Borderplex Alliance, to help make that happen.

"Because it's the businesses that actually fill planes, fill the seats, and ultimately that's what the airlines want," Lombraña said.

Changes are also coming to the airport.

The baggage inspection system is being re-done, one of the runways is under construction and there's renovations to Concourse A and B.

"El Paso International is a brand name, it also has a lot of history tied to it. I think that you're going to see improvements at the airport as the amenities get better, as we update, but we're never going to lose that historical charm,"

;Lombraña said.

Nate Barrett

Anchor/Reporter

CBS4

D: 915-834-4462 | C: 915-538-9011

Hotline: 915-845-5369 | F: 915-833-8717

200 S. Alto Mesa | El Paso, TX 79912

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