Albuquerque International Sunport

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For the USAF use of this facility, see Kirtland Air Force Base. For the former airport serving Albuquerque, see Oxnard Field.
Albuquerque International Sunport
Airport type Public
Owner City of Albuquerque
Operator Albuquerque Aviation Department
Serves Albuquerque, New Mexico, US
Location 2200 Sunport Boulevard SE
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Elevation AMSL 5,355 ft / 1,632 m
Coordinates 35°02′21.6″N 106°36′38.8″W / 35.039333°N 106.610778°W / 35.039333; -106.610778
ABQ is located in New Mexico
ABQ is located in the US
Location of airport in New Mexico / United States
Direction Length Surface
ft m
3/21 10,000 3,048 Concrete
8/26 13,793 4,204 Concrete
12/30 6,000 1,829 Concrete
Statistics (2015)
Aircraft operations 124,174
Total Passengers 4,745,256
Sources: airport website[1] and FAA[2]

Albuquerque International Sunport (IATA: ABQICAO: KABQFAA LID: ABQ) is a public airport 3 miles (5 km) southeast of downtown Albuquerque, in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, United States.[2] It is the largest commercial airport in the state, handling 4,745,256 passengers in 2015.[3] The airport serves Albuquerque and Santa Fe (also served by Santa Fe Municipal Airport).


Albuquerque was first served by two private airports. Oxnard Field opened in 1928, and West Mesa Airport, also known as the TWA airport, opened in 1930. The first airlines to serve the airports were Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), Western Air Express (WAE), and Mid Continent Air Express, all inaugurating service in 1929. At first the airlines operated from Oxnard Field (which was also called Albuquerque Airport) but moved to the West Mesa Airport for most of the 1930s decade. TAT and WAE merged in 1930 to form Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). Mid Continent Air Express' service was replaced by Varney Speed Lines in 1934. Three years later Varney changed its names to Continental Airlines.

In 1935 it was suggested that the city build a new public airport using Works Progress Administration money. Having secured US$520,500 in funding, Governor Clyde Tingley broke ground for the project on February 28, 1937. Albuquerque Municipal Airport opened in 1939 with two paved runways, a Pueblo Style terminal building designed by Ernest Blumenthal, and a massive hangar designed to accommodate the new Boeing 307 operated by TWA. TWA became Trans World Airlines in 1946.[4] Monarch Airlines came to Albuquerque in 1947 then merged with other carriers to become Frontier Airlines in 1950. The airport was renamed Albuquerque Sunport on April 17, 1963.

The April 1957 official airline guide shows 31 weekday departures: 13 on Continental Airlines, 12 on TWA and 6 on Frontier Airlines. Trans-Texas Airways (later Texas International Airlines) came to Albuquerque in 1963 rounding out the first four carriers to serve the airport prior to the airline deregulation act of 1978.[citation needed]

The present terminal was designed by William E. Burk Jr.[5] It s built just east of the original terminal, and opened on November 12, 1965. At first the terminal had eight gates, four at the main building and another four at a small satellite building to the south connected by an underground tunnel. None of the gates had jetbridges.

The terminal has since been expanded several times, first in 1971 when a west wing was added with a large gate and jetbridge able to handle new wide-body aircraft. TWA used this gate to introduce the Lockheed L-1011 to Albuquerque in 1974 with flights to Chicago. After airline deregulation was passed in 1978, a flood of new airlines came to ABQ. The west wing was expanded in 1980 with three more gates, all of which had jetbridges and were used extensively by TWA and many new carriers. Southwest Airlines started service on April 3, 1980 using the old gates 1 and 2 at the main terminal and installed three ground level jetbridges at these two gates.

From 1987 through 1989 the terminal was expanded and renovated advertising a design by Phillip Jacobson and BPLW Associates.[5] The satellite gate building was replaced with two concourses, A and B, giving the Sunport 19 new gates, all with jetbridges. Concourse A was further expanded in 1996 with four additional gates. The new above-ground connector link to the concourses was greatly expanded in 2005 to accommodate the need for additional security screening by the TSA after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The airport gained international status and was renamed the Albuquerque International Airport on September 27, 1971. The name was changed to Albuquerque International Sunport in 1994.

The old terminal of 1939 has been restored and houses offices of the Transportation Security Administration. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Historical airline service[edit]

The Sunport is currently served by Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, jetBlue, Southwest, and United Airlines as well as one commuter airline, Boutique Air. Total weekday departures run between 70 and 85 flights per day however the Sunport peaked with 163 flights per day in December, 1995 and again in August, 2001. In the past Albuquerque has been served by the following commercial airlines:

TWA, Continental, Frontier, Texas International, Eastern, Western, Northwest, America West, Braniff, Pan Am, Wein Air Alaska, PSA, Reno Air, Western Pacific, AeroMexico, US Airways, and a second Frontier Airlines.

TWA was the grandfather carrier since passenger flights commenced in 1929 as Albuquerque was one of many stops on the carrier's mainline route between Los Angeles and New York, tucked in between Winslow, Arizona and Amarillo, Texas. TWA consistently expanded with more flights and larger aircraft including the first jets to serve ABQ with the Boeing 707 and Convair 880 in 1961. Service peaked in 1979 with 21 daily departures to 13 major cities including nonstops to Los Angeles and New York. After airline deregulation in the early 1980s, TWA downsized its operation and by 1985 was only offering flights to its primary hub at St. Louis. Service continued until December 2, 2001 when the carrier merged with American Airlines.

Continental Airlines was the second major player serving Albuquerque since 1934 as a stop on its mainline north-south route between Denver and El Paso. In 1940 Continental added new service to several smaller cities in Southeastern New Mexico but that service was all transferred to Frontier and Trans Texas Airways in 1963. In the latter half of the 1960s Continental expanded with Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-9 jets offering nonstop service to Chicago, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, San Antonio, and San Francisco. Service peaked in the summer of 1977 with 24 daily departures. Continental as well began to downsize its operation after airline deregulation and by 1994 was only offering flights to its Houston hub although a nonstop flight to Newark was added for a period in the mid-2000s. Continental merged with United Airlines in 2012.

Frontier Airlines began service to Albuquerque in 1947 as Monarch Airlines, and provided flights to smaller cities throughout the four corners states. Service was expanded in the 1960s with Boeing 727 and 737 jets to Denver, El Paso, Phoenix, Tucson, Dallas, and Las Vegas and in 1973 Frontier operated 19 daily flights at ABQ. Direct flights to several resort cities in Mexico were added in the early 1980s but the carrier closed down in 1986.

In 1963 Trans-Texas Airways (TTa) came to Albuquerque by taking over service to the smaller cities in New Mexico that Continental had served. It later expanded with nonstop Douglas DC-9 jets to Dallas and Los Angeles. TTa, which later became Texas International, also flew DC-9's from ABQ to Santa Fe and Roswell, New Mexico and peaked in 1975 with 15 daily departures. It then merged with Continental Airlines in 1982.

Southwest Airlines began service to the Sunport in 1980 and expanded quickly creating a hub at ABQ. The carrier took over the number one spot by the early 1980s and peaked with 66 daily departures in October 2001. Although Southwest has cut back significantly since then, so far it has served 27 cities nonstop from ABQ.

American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines have all had major roles at the airport providing service to many of their primary hubs since the early 1980s. At least 34 commuter and regional airlines have served ABQ, the largest of these by far was Mesa Airlines which served the Sunport from 1980 through 2007. Mesa peaked with 46 daily departures in 1990 and served 18 cities nonstop from ABQ to points throughout New Mexico and Colorado. Mesa still serves ABQ but now as a regional airline providing feeder for flights for American Eagle and United Express using regional jets.

Other regional airlines serving the airport on behalf of the majors are; SkyWest, ExpressJet, Republic, Shuttle America, TransStates, GoJet, Compass, and Envoy. Sun Country Airlines and Xtra Airways also serve ABQ with regular public charter flights to Laughlin, and Wendover, Nevada.[6]

Military facilities and operations[edit]

The Sunport began a new role in 1940 when it was designated Albuquerque Army Air Base, the precursor to today's Kirtland Air Force Base. The airport continues to share its runways with Kirtland AFB, which also handles rescue and firefighting operations. An Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) installation, the host unit is the 377th Air Base Wing (377 ABW). Flying units at Kirtland AFB consist of the 58th Special Operations Wing (58 SOW) of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and the 150th Fighter Wing (150 FW), an Air Combat Command (ACC)-gained unit of the New Mexico Air National Guard.

Future developments[edit]

The Airport Master Plan drafted in 2002 lays out intermediate- and long-term projects at the Sunport, including the removal of Runway 17/35 and the construction of a second terminal when traffic demands it. The runway closure recommendation was based on safety, noise abatement, and the cost of upkeep. Because 17/35 intersected all three of the other runways, it ran the highest risk of runway incursions. The runway was closed in Summer 2012, and the tarmac is used for taxiing aircraft, and for a firefighting training aircraft located on the north end.[7] The configuration of the other three runways, in conjunction with typical wind patterns, enabled them to handle departures and landings more efficiently.

In the longer term, the plan calls for a new terminal to be built to the northeast of the existing terminal. A people mover system will connect the terminal with parking facilities and the existing terminal.[8]

Facilities and aircraft[edit]

Albuquerque International Sunport Airport covers 2,039 acres (825 ha) and has three runways. In 2014 the airport had 130,002 aircraft operations, an average of 356 per day: 40% scheduled commercial, 21% air taxi, 24% general aviation and 15% military. In 2006, there were 322 aircraft based at this airport: 33% multi-engine, 30% single-engine, 18% military, 13% jet and 7% helicopter.[2] ABQ's terminal, which was expanded in the late 1980s, and again to its present size in 1996, encompasses 574,000 sq ft (53,300 m²) of space. The airport has a Pueblo Revival style passenger terminal which houses two concourses and an area for commuter airline gates.

The largest passenger aircraft scheduled into Albuquerque is the Boeing 737-900, operated by Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines on flights from Seattle and Atlanta. The largest commercial aircraft the Sunport usually sees is a FedEx McDonnell Douglas DC-10 to Memphis.

In 2013 the aerial firefighting company, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, moved its headquarters to Albuquerque and currently have three DC-10 large air tankers based out of Albuquerque International Sunport.

The largest aircraft of any type to regularly visit the Sunport is the C-5 Galaxy. In 1974 and again from 1982 through 1992 the airport had scheduled Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1011s.


Banner inside the airport terminal listing Albuquerque's sister cities

Albuquerque International Sunport has one terminal with 25 gates in four concourses, including a concourse for commuter airline gates. Concourse A has 13 gates: A1 – A12, A14. Concourse B has 9 gates: B1, B3-B10 (Gate B2 was removed during the security hall and low B gate bathroom expansion). Concourse E has 2 gates: E1 & E2.[9] Concourse C, originally known as the west wing, consisted of four gates (11, 12, 14, & 15). Gate 11 was closed when the terminal was expanded in 1989 and the remaining three gates were renumbered to C1, C2, & C3. TWA continued to use these gates for a few more years until gates C2 and C3 showed signs of structural failure and later had to be demolished. TWA moved to concourse B and the lobby area of gate C1 (the gate built in 1971) has mostly been converted to office space. The lower level of gate C1 houses U. S. Customs and is still used for occasional international arriving flights. The Sunport last saw regular international service in 2009 by Aeromexico Connect with flights to Chihuahua, Mexico. Concourse D was a ground-level commuter aircraft concourse that was used by Great Plains Airlines. It was closed in 2004 after Great Plains Airlines liquidated due to insolvency.[10]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations Concourse
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma B
Alaska Airlines
operated by Horizon Air
Orange County, Portland (OR) (both begin August 18, 2017)[11] B
Allegiant Air Austin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles A
American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth B
American Eagle Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Phoenix–Sky Harbor B
Boutique Air Alamosa (CO), Carlsbad (NM), Silver City E
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Salt Lake City
Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Delta Connection Salt Lake City B
JetBlue Airways New York–JFK B
Southwest Airlines Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Dallas–Love, Denver, Houston–Hobby, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, San Diego
Seasonal: Austin, Orlando, Seattle/Tacoma
United Airlines Denver
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Houston–Intercontinental
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Los Angeles, San Francisco A


Airlines Destinations
Ameriflight Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Clovis, Farmington, Gallup, Grants, Las Cruces, Las Vegas (NM), Hobbs, Roswell, Silver City, Tucumcari, Phoenix-Sky Harbor
FedEx Express Lubbock, Memphis, Oklahoma City
FedEx Feeder
operated by Empire Airlines
Durango, Farmington, Gallup
UPS Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Louisville, Ontario, Phoenix–Sky Harbor


Top domestic destinations[edit]

Top domestic destinations From ABQ (Nov 2015 - Oct 2016)[12]
Rank Airport Passengers Airline(s)
1 Phoenix-Sky Harbor, Arizona 323,780 American, Southwest
2 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 257,850 American
3 Denver, Colorado 219,020 Southwest, United
4 Los Angeles, California 170,320 Allegiant, American, Southwest, United
5 Dallas–Love, Texas 160,130 Southwest
6 Las Vegas, Nevada 144,120 Allegiant, Southwest
7 Atlanta, Georgia 138,950 Delta
8 Houston–Hobby, Texas 106,480 Southwest
9 Houston–Intercontinental, Texas 85,350 United
10 Chicago–Midway, Illinois 84,160 Southwest

Airline market share[edit]

Carrier shares (Nov 2015 - Oct 2016)[12]
Carrier Passengers (arriving and departing)

Annual traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic (enplaned + deplaned) at ABQ, 1990 thru 2016[13]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers
2010 5,796,373 2000 6,292,458 1990 4,987,713
2009 5,888,811 1999 6,152,493
2008 6,489,323 1998 6,149,197
2007 6,668,706 1997 6,290,018
2016 4,775,098 2006 6,487,276 1996 6,618,751
2015 4,745,256 2005 6,466,435 1995 6,130,451
2014 4,871,901 2004 6,320,142 1994 6,158,300
2013 5,065,179 2003 6,064,418 1993 5,603,248
2012 5,382,223 2002 6,117,645 1992 5,264,577
2011 5,697,625 2001 6,181,606 1991 4,938,431

Aircraft operations[edit]

The data below lists annual total aircraft operations from 2004–2016 from the FAA's Air Traffic Activity System. The percent changes indicate an average of −3.50% in aircraft operations per year over the last 10 years.[14]

Aircraft Operations: ABQ 2004–2016[14]
Calendar year Aircraft operations  %
2004 197,657
2005 196,699 −0.48%
2006 192,241 −2.27%
2007 190,780 −0.76%
2008 180,553 −5.36%
2009 158,529 −12.20%
2010 156,616 −1.21%
2011 154,140 −1.58%
2012 147,724 −4.16%
2013 136,915 −7.32%
2014 130,069 −5.00%
2015 124,174 -4.48%
2016 133,914 7.8%

The airport's freight center moved 60,000 short tons (54,000 t) of cargo in 2013, a 7% decline from 64,000 short tons (58,000 t) during the 2012 calendar year.[15][16]

General aviation support[edit]

Support for private, corporate, and general aviation aircraft pilots and passengers are handled by two fixed-base operators at Albuquerque International Sunport: Atlantic Aviation and Cutter Aviation and Albuquerque Aero services which handles Avionics and Electrical. All three are located on the Southeast section of the airport off Clark Carr Loop.

Ground transportation[edit]


ABQ RIDE offers bus service (Routes 50, 222, and 250) at the west side of the baggage claim area.

Commuter train[edit]

ABQ RIDE Route 222 provides connecting service to the New Mexico Rail Runner Express Bernallilo County/International Sunport Station, while ABQ RIDE Route 250 provides nonstop service to the Alvarado Transportation Center in Downtown Albuquerque. The Rail Runner provides service north and south of the airport, including Downtown Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Scheduled shuttle bus service[edit]

Regularly scheduled bus and shuttle service is provided by various carriers to locations from ABQ to the city and to Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Taxis can be hailed through the Ground Transportation employees outside the baggage claim areas.

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • On February 19, 1955, TWA Flight 260, a Martin 4-0-4 bound for Santa Fe, crashed into the Sandia Mountains shortly after takeoff. All 16 people on board the flight were killed.[17]
  • On September 11, 1958, a US Air Force F-102 Delta Dagger slid off the end of Runway 35 in heavy rain and struck a car on Gibson Boulevard before coming to rest in an empty lot on the north side of the street. Both occupants of the car were killed.[18]
  • On November 24, 1971, in the early morning hours, TWA flight 106, a Boeing 727 destined for Chicago, was hijacked to Cuba. The hijackers, three men who had killed a New Mexico State Police Officer two weeks prior, were taken into custody in Havana and never returned to the United States.[19]
  • On November 3, 1973, National Airlines Flight 27, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, suffered a catastrophic engine failure over an area near Datil, NM while en route from Houston to Las Vegas. Shrapnel from the engine struck the fuselage and caused an explosive decompression of the aircraft. One passenger was blown out of the cabin and killed. The plane was able to make an emergency landing at ABQ with no further fatalities.[20]
  • On September 14, 1977, a USAF Boeing EC-135 crashed into the Manzano Mountains just after takeoff, killing all 20 people on board.[21]
  • On July 6, 1997, Delta Air Lines Flight 1470, a Boeing 727 suffered a right landing gear failure after landing on Runway 21. While there were no fatalities, 3 people were injured and the aircraft suffered serious damage.[22]


  • The Sunport provides free Wi-Fi internet access. In February 2005, the Sunport was voted one of the top five U.S. airports for wireless access, according to a Microsoft Small Business Center poll. The Sunport was the only one among the top 5 that provided free internet.[23] As of January 2016, the service is still provided free.
  • There is a free cell phone parking area, where meeters and greeters can park and wait for a call from their arriving passenger before driving to the front of the terminal for pickup.
  • There are two free aircraft observation areas, including one near the aforementioned Cellphone lot that is adjacent to now-closed Runway 17/35. A larger observation area is at the southwest corner of the airfield property, near the approach end of Runway 3 and accessible from Spirit Dr. SE. These areas were created to replace a large parking area adjacent to the approach ends of Runways 8 and 12 that closed in 2007; an Eclipse Aerospace aircraft painting facility now occupies this location.


  1. ^ "Airport". City of Albuquerque. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c FAA Airport Master Record for ABQ (Form 5010 PDF), effective June 5, 2008
  3. ^ "Facts and Figures". Albuquerque International Sunport. City of Albuquerque. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  4. ^ Biebel, Charles D. (1986). Making the Most of It: Public Works in Albuquerque during the Great Depression 1929–1942. Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Albuquerque Museum. pp. 66–67. 
  5. ^ a b Price, Vincent Barrett (2003) [1992]. Albuquerque: A City at the End of the World (2nd ed.). Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-8263-3097-5. 
  6. ^ timetables from all the airlines that have served Albuquerque[citation needed]
  7. ^ "FedEx Donates Boeing 727-200F Aircraft to Albuquerque International Sunport". City of Albuquerque. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  8. ^ Coffman Associates (September 2002). Albuquerque International Sunport, Airport Master Plan, Executive Summary (PDF) (Report). Retrieved August 14, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Terminal Level 2 Ticketing Level" (PDF) (Map). Albuquerque International Sunport. City of Albuquerque. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Miles, Tom (March 4, 2010). "Albuquerque Sunport turned 70!". YouTube. Retrieved March 5, 2015. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b "Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. U.S. Department of Transportation. May 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  13. ^ Sunport Passenger History (PDF) (Report). Albuquerque International Sunport/City of Albuquerque. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Air Traffic Activity System". Archived from the original on October 4, 2014. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Sunport Facts & Figures". City of Albuquerque. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Sunport Facts & Figures". City of Albuquerque. Archived from the original on September 22, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Aviation Safety Network: Aircraft accident description Martin 4-0-4 N40416 – Sandia Mountain, NM". Aviation Safety Network. February 19, 1955. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  18. ^ Palmer, Mo (August 10, 2006). "Remembering past tragedies." The Albuquerque Tribune.
  19. ^ Wikipedia: List of Cuba-United States Aircraft Hijackings
  20. ^ "Aircraft accident description McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 N60NA – Socorro, NM". Aviation Safety Network. November 3, 1973. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Air Force Plane Crashes in New Mexico; 20 Dead". Observer-Reporter. Washington, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. September 16, 1977. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  22. ^ Factual Report Aviation Boeing 727-247 N2809W (PDF) (Report). National Transportation Safety Board. July 6, 1997. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  23. ^ O'Hara, Sean (August 7, 2005). "Sunport's free WiFi service grabbing national attention". Albuquerque Business First. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 

External links[edit]