DEL RIO, TX — Del Rio Mayor Robert Garza signed a letter of intent to bring American Airlines’s American Eagle service to that city’s international airport Friday.
American Eagle will provide two departures and two arrivals a day from Del Rio to the Dallas/Fort Worth DFW Airport using the 44-seat Embraer ERJ 140 jet. The flights will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to DFW. By car, this is a six-hour drive.
Friday, flanked by Del Rio City Council members to his left and Del Rio City Manager Henry Arredondo to his right at the Del Rio City Hall, Garza explained the way Del Rio attracted American Airlines: Subsidies.
The City of Del Rio generates a significant amount of revenue from its international bridge. Garza said by raising the per-private-vehicle toll fee by $0.25 and increasing fees on the increasing truck traffic traveling across the bridge the City was able to agree to a $2.9 million, two-year revenue guarantee to American.
The subsidy, or revenue guarantee, will be paid over two years: $1.959 million the first year, and $950,000 the second year, Garza said.
If passenger service, which he said would be around $180 per seat each way, picks up quickly enough, not all of the guarantee will need to be paid to American. Garza said the agreement needs around 27-28 flights per month that generate $4,993 in revenue each to not require the City’s subsidy.
Watch: An American Eagle ERJ 140 lands at DFW:
Del Rio Airport Manager Juan Carlos Onofre said the equipment is already in place and the TSA is ready to begin air passenger service, but American is telling him the service will begin November 4. Onofre outlined the schedule:
|DRT to DFW||6:30 a.m. – 7:49 a.m.|
|DFW to DRT||2:35 p.m. – 3:59 p.m.|
|DRT to DFW||4:25 p.m — 5:44 p.m.|
|DFW to DRT||10:15 p.m. – 11:39 p.m.|
“No property taxes will be increased to pay the airline,” Mayor Garza stressed. He said the effort to recruit American Airlines began with an ad hoc committee he formed in 2014 with local business leaders, including CEO of The Bank & Trust Sid Cauthorn. Members of the committee made a trip to Dallas in November 2017 to meet with American officials. The deal announced Friday was a result of that meeting and many phone calls.
The primary reason the City of Del Rio aggressively sought airline service from American was Laughlin Air Force Base. The base is the area’s largest employer and Garza said city leaders are worried about another Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC. “Believe it or not, BRAC looks at whether or not there is an airline service,” Garza said.
Northern Mexico and the maquiladora industry in Del Rio and Eagle Pass will also benefit from the service, Garza said. Del Rio sits in the Texas-Mexico border. Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico, a city of almost 200,000 sits across the international bridge from Del Rio. Del Rio has a population of 35,998, according to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau estimate.
Over the years, airline service has come and gone from the Del Rio International Airport, usually operated by small start-ups that eventually pulled out or went broke. This is the first ever agreement with a major carrier.