Tag Archives: Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport

Amarillo to get new link to Austin

Amarillo is being hooked up more tightly to Austin, via a new air carrier that will provide direct non-stop daily service between the cities in September.

Fascinating, yes? I couldn’t help but think of a former state legislator who once half-joked about splitting the Texas Panhandle from the rest of the state when he first took office in 1991.

State Rep. David Swinford once pitched a notion out loud that the Panhandle was so far removed from the state capital that it should become a separate state. I asked the Dumas Republican lawmaker about that idea when I first arrived in Amarillo in 1995 and he acknowledged that he was semi-serious about it.

The idea never got sufficient traction.

So, here we are, more than two decades later and we get news that Via Airlines is going to begin direct air service between Amarillo and Austin this fall. The in-state air carrier plans one flight out of AMA and one flight back each day, with the hope of expanding service if traffic merits it. Via currently operates a fleet of 50-passenger regional jets.

Via officials along with Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport officials say there’s sufficient interest in getting from the Panhandle to Austin to merit this new service. I guess travelers don’t like flying first to Dallas Love Field via Southwest Airlines, or to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport via American Airlines before connecting to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

We’ll see how this goes. It does bode well for the future of the Panhandle and the growing reliance the region has on its air service, which happens to be quite good. AMA already provides direct service to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. Now we can add Austin to the list of business and leisure travel destinations.

I also am quite sure that former Rep. Swinford no longer wants to split the Panhandle from the rest of the state.

Stay safe, firefighters … and thank you

I’ve already posted a recent blog item that talks a bit about the value of prayer as the Texas Panhandle battles through this latest punishing drought.

I feel the need now to offer a word of support, thanks and good wishes for some men and women, many of whom are volunteering their time to protect us from raging flames.

We’re under an extreme fire alert today and likely for the next couple of days — at least — because of high winds and the intense drought.

My wife and I can see plumes of smoke to our north and west at this very moment. They are fires that have erupted in this hideous wind storm. But dozens — maybe hundreds — of firefighters have donned their gear and have taken on the flames.

You know — if you read this blog regularly — about my admiration for emergency responders. Police, firefighters and medical personnel are at the top of my list of heroic individuals who — and I believe this firmly — do not get enough demonstrations of love and respect from those of us they protect.

Here’s something else to ponder: Many of those firefighters and emergency medical personnel are volunteers. They have day jobs for which they get paid so they can put beans on the table. When the fire alarms go off in their rural communities, they rush into action.

This by no means diminishes the value we should place on the professional responders who answer the call as well. They, too, are among the few of us who when danger erupts run toward it, not away from it.

Many of them are hard at work as I write these few words. My wife, puppy and I are comfortable in our home on wheels, the RV that is parked at a campground near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

For that I am thankful and grateful for the men and women who are doing their damndest to keep us all safe from the flames.

Here’s an idea: How about sprucing up AMA?

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson rode into office partly on the strength of an ambitious six-point campaign platform.

It pays a lot of attention to economic development, fiscal responsibility, accountability to taxpayers and even makes a nod toward improving the appearance of public rights-of-way along our interstate highways.

I didn’t see any mention of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. Indeed, I am keeping my copy of an Amarillo Globe-News story that profiled Nelson’s campaign platform; my intent is to remind myself of issues she is addressing and which of them she needs to devote more attention.

About the airport.

I just returned this evening from a quick trip to AMA and noticed a couple of things about the site.

One is that the grounds immediately around the covered parking structures look better than they have looked in recent months. The grass is cut and trimmed. I did notice a number of weeds sprouting through the pavement in the parking lot. Tsk, tsk.

The other thing I continually notice as I drive along Airport Drive is that it, um, is so non-descript. I didn’t notice a “Welcome to Amarillo” sign, or any roadside artwork that depicts the personality of the community travelers are visiting … many for the first time, or perhaps for the only time.

I make the point about AMA for this reason: In the 1990s, the city spent a lot of tax money to subsidize jet traffic provided by American Airlines. The idea of spending Amarillo Economic Development Corporation sales tax revenue on these jet aircraft was to make air travel more comfortable for business travelers. The AEDC subsidy was intended to lure business to Amarillo. It drew its share of criticism from other communities. Frankly, it sounded like so much sour grapes.

I found the strategy to be innovative, aggressive and ambitious. The city ended the subsidy. American Airlines pulled the jets out of its Amarillo-to-D/FW route — for a time. Then the airline brought jet traffic back to AMA, as did United Airlines and Continental; Southwest always flew jets in and out of AMA.

The city once staked a lot of public money on air service at its airport. What’s more, in recent years the city has renovated and remodeled AMA, modernizing the terminal, turning it into an attractive site.

We have a new mayor and an entirely new City Council making policy at City Hall. Our new city manager, Jared Miller, came here from San Marcos with a reputation as someone who emphasized economic development.

I’ll throw this idea out to them all for consideration: How about developing some sort of strategy to make Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport a good bit more inviting to those who come here from the Metroplex, from Houston, Denver, from Las Vegas or from Phoenix?

There might be a business opportunity to be gained for the city if the traveler gets a first-glimpse look at what the city has to offer on his or her way out of the airport.

Just some food for thought, folks.

Stay the course with AEDC


Buzz David’s tenure as head of Amarillo’s leading economic development arm is about to end.

I read the newspaper account of his supposed “retirement” twice this afternoon and I’m left with a nagging takeaway: There seems to be more than meets the eye in his announced departure from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.

I don’t know the particulars. AEDC called his announcement a “retirement,” while David insists he’s going to stay in the economic development game after his tenure at AEDC ends late this month.

Whatever the case turns out to be, I want to declare that AEDC has succeeded so far in fulfilling its mission to bring jobs to Amarillo and the Panhandle and that David has been a major factor in that success.

The city should seek to find a suitable replacement, someone with the kind of economic development chops that David exhibited during his decade-plus as president and CEO of AEDC.

As for AEDC itself, my unsolicited advice to the Amarillo City Council is clear cut and unequivocal: Don’t mess with it.

I say this because of some careless talk around the city immediately after this past year’s municipal election that the AEDC board should resign en masse. That talk subsided immediately, for which I am grateful.

I had the chance to watch David up close for many years while I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo newspaper. I’ve had many discussions with him during that time and since my departure from the paper more than three years ago.

I consider David to be an impressive individual with loads of business savvy. If you ask him about criticism of certain projects AEDC brought to Amarillo, he’s straightforward and direct in answering them.

I once inquired about the Hilmar Cheese plant that AEDC awarded several million dollars to build in Dalhart. David’s response? The money was well-spent, given that the economic impact of that operation ripples far beyond Dallam and Hartley counties.

The Bell aircraft assembly operation came into being before David arrived at AEDC. It, too, has produced huge economic impact for the region. On David’s watch at AEDC, the operation has continued to expand.

AEDC’s strategy is to use the money it accrues from the half-cent municipal sales tax it collects and then doles it out to businesses interested in locating in Amarillo.

That strategy drew considerable scorn from the Dallas-Fort Worth media after Amarillo managed to lure the Bell aircraft operation from Tarrant County to its current location next door to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

It worked! Period.

Yes, there have been some hiccups along the way. Businesses that set up shop here after receiving AEDC assistance have failed.

The bottom line, though, looks good.

I wish Buzz David well as he moves on to his next station in life.

Moreover, my hope is that the city doesn’t mess with the successes built by its economic development corporation.


AMA going to seed

At the risk of sounding like a negative Nelly, I’m going to weigh in on yet another problem that needs fixing.

I’ve griped in recent days about the shabby appearance of Amarillo’ highway interchanges, and about TxDOT’s unfriendly motor vehicle access to the “Welcome to Texas” sign.

Next up? Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

I just picked up one of my sons at AMA tonight and noticed something I hadn’t seen before: seedy grounds around the short-term parking lot.

What gives with the airport?

Weeds are popping up all over the place. The entrance where you pick up your parking ticket looks as if it hasn’t been weeded in weeks. The greenery around the parking structure needs manicuring — badly.

Weeds, weeds, weeds everywhere.

Has the city run out of landscape custodial money for AMA?

I mention this only because airports often are the only thing people remember about the cities they visit.

I’m just wondering if the city has dropped the ball on the airport grounds maintenance.

Air fare glitch helps someone else … again

So help me, I need to get in the good graces of the god of Air Fare Glitches.

Delta Airlines posted some ridiculously low air fares online this week and some customer snapped up the fares. The airline company fixed the mistake, but said it would honor the fares purchased before it caught the mistake.


Why can’t I ever get in on that action?

Understand, of course, that Delta Airlines doesn’t fly in and out of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, so this goof wouldn’t benefit me in the least. But other airlines have had similar problems — United, American and Southwest, for example, which do fly out of AMA.

I’m always caught flat-footed, never getting wind of these mess-ups until after they’ve been resolved.

Heck, my wife and I can barely redeem frequent-flier miles when we’ve earned enough of them to travel somewhere for “free.” I get on the website, look to book a redeem the mileage and learn that all the seats set aside for those with such awards have been taken up already. Crap!

We did hit the jackpot once, redeeming miles for a free flight to Buffalo, N.Y., to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at nearby Niagara Falls. OK, so I’m not a total loser in this regard.

I’ll hand it to Delta, though, for honoring its mistake. I just wish I could have been one of the honorees.

AMA to stay in the game with new airline

American Airlines and US Airways want to merge. Texas officials had protested their merger … until Tuesday.

The state has reached an agreement with the potential new airline giant that seeks a guarantee that the airline will serve 22 Texas cities for at least the next three years. The announcement came from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — who also is running to become the state’s next governor.


What does this mean for Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport? It means AMA stays in the American Airlines network of terminals now being served.

AMA has some additional skin in this game, given Amarillo’s unique relationship with American Airlines. The city once poured several millions of public dollars into keeping jet service at AMA. It came in the form of sales tax money collected by the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. Some communities, even some media, scoffed at Amarillo for paying more than $1 million annually to American Airlines to keep the jets flying between AMA and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The strategy served to boost the city’s business climate.

That was then. American flies jets exclusively now in and out of AMA.

The merger likely now will go through, even though the federal government is protesting it. The feds contend the merger likely would be bad for competition and would drive the already-expensive cost of air travel even farther upward.

American Airlines and its parent company AMR have been huge corporate partners in Texas. The deal also means the airline will keep its headquarters in the Metroplex and that D-FW Airport will serve as the airline’s major hub.

Communities such as Amarillo, though, need the service to D-FW. Let’s hope the deal struck between the state and the company will lead to a longer-term commitment to this growing community.