JetBlue Eyes the Duke CIty

Albuquerqueans love their airport, but one complaint I hear a lot is the lack of direct flights, at least for points East.

There has been talk for several years of luring JetBlue Airways to the Albuquerque International Sunport    , with direct flights to New York, and JetBlue CEO Dave Barger says that’s a possibility.

Barger was in town recently and met with Mayor Richard J. Berry.

Ann Rhoades, president of People Ink in Albuquerque and a founding executive of JetBlue who serves on the company’s board, set up the meeting, Barger said.

“We had a good meeting,” he said. “The mayor will be in New York within the next 30 days, and he’ll stop by our new offices here.”

Barger said he thinks it’s quite likely JetBlue could expand service to the Sunport, although he cautioned that the company struggles with longer-haul routes because of the cost of oil, and Albuquerque is a tad farther from New York than, say, Florida.

“I think a lot of people are unaware of New Mexico,” Barger said.

He asked if perhaps some people in the Land of Enchantment like it that way.

While it’s true I meet people who want to keep the secrets of our lovely state to themselves, I assured him the tourism industry would like nothing more than to move the state beyond its 1 percent share of the domestic travel market. No doubt many businesses would love more direct flights as well.

Barger said his company has found that when nonstop flights are an option, the propensity to travel to a destination goes up.

“The snow you had for skiers [this season] — New Yorkers would have been all over that if there was a way to get there,” he added.

He also extolled the state’s historical and cultural sites.

“It’s a really cool place,” he said. “We think it’s likely we would do it. We think it would be a good market.”

He added that there are a lot of possible synergies between the financial communities of New York and the educational institutions in Boston (JetBlue’s other big hub) and the technology community in New Mexico.

The closest places right now for New Mexicans to catch JetBlue flights are Denver and Phoenix. The airline received seven consecutive customer satisfaction awards from J.D. Power and Associates    and ranked No. 3 in the Airline Quality Ratings study for 2012.