If you're visiting central or northern New Mexico, it's best to fly into Albuquerque, and if you're headed to the southern part of the state, El Paso may make more sense. However, El Paso is smaller and served by far fewer flights, so depending on where you're flying from it can still be easier to fly into Albuquerque than El Paso even when visiting the southern part of the state. Some visitors to Taos and northeastern New Mexico may also want to consider flying into Denver, which is an hour or two farther than Albuquerque but receives a high number of direct domestic and international flights. Santa Fe receives daily direct flights on American Eagle from both Dallas and Los Angeles. From Albuquerque airport, ground transportation is available throughout north-central New Mexico, and commuter air service is available to Farmington, Clovis, Ruidoso, Silver City, and a few other communities around the state. El Paso has ground transportation to Las Cruces. Although Albuquerque and El Paso have small, clean, and user-friendly airports, they also have relatively few direct flights compared with larger cities around the country. With a few exceptions, travelers coming from the East Coast and to a certain extent the West Coast have to connect through other airports to fly into Albuquerque and, especially, El Paso.
The least expensive airfares to New Mexico are priced for round-trip travel and must usually be purchased in advance. Because the discount airline Southwest serves Albuquerque and El Paso, fares from these cities to airports served by Southwest are often 20% to 40% less than to other airports (whether or not you actually fly Southwest, as competing airlines often match Southwest's fares).
Flying time between Albuquerque and Los Angeles is 2 hours for direct flights (available only on Southwest Airlines and United Airlines) and 3½ to 4 when connecting through another airport; Chicago, 2 hours and 45 minutes; New York, 5½ to 6½ hours (there are no direct flights, so this factors in time for connections); Dallas, 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The major gateway to New Mexico is Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), which is 65 mi southwest of Santa Fe, 130 mi south of Taos, and 180 mi southeast of Farmington. Some travelers to Chama, Raton, and Taos prefer to fly into Denver (four to five hours' drive), which has far more direct flights to the rest of the country than Albuquerque—it's a scenic drive, too.
The gateway to southern New Mexico is El Paso International Airport (ELP), 50 mi southeast of Las Cruces, 160 mi southeast of Silver City, 135 mi southwest of Ruidoso, and 160 mi southwest of Carlsbad. The flight between El Paso and Albuquerque takes 50 minutes. The state's easternmost side can also be accessed via major airports in Texas, including Lubbock (170 mi east of Roswell) and Amarillo (105 mi northeast of Clovis).
Long layovers don't have to be only about sitting around or shopping. These days they can be about burning off vacation calories. Check out www.airportgyms.com for lists of health clubs that are in or near many U.S. airports.
Albuquerque International Sunport (505/244–7700. www.cabq.gov/airport.)
Denver International Airport (303/342–2000. www.flydenver.com.)
Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF) (505/955–2900. www.santafenm.gov/?nid=171.)
Sierra Blanca Regional Airport (SRR), Ruidoso area. 575/336–8111.
Most major domestic airlines provide service to the state's main airport in Albuquerque; just over the border in Texas (near Las Cruces and Carlsbad), El Paso International Airport is served by American, Southwest, Delta, Continental, Frontier, New Mexico Airlines, Northwest, United, and US Airways. The state is also served by a few regional carriers. Great Lakes Airlines flies from Denver to Farmington and from Albuquerque to Silver City and Clovis (and then from Clovis on to Amarillo, Texas). Frontier Airlines flies daily from Denver to El Paso and Albuquerque. Skywest Airlines, a subsidiary of Delta, flies between Albuquerque and Salt Lake City. Santa Fe's municipal airport has daily service to and from Dallas and Los Angeles on American Eagle.
Ask the local tourist board about hotel and local transportation packages that include tickets to major museum exhibits or other special events.
From the terminal at Albuquerque Airport, it's 5 to 20 minutes by car to get anywhere in town. Taxis, available at clearly marked stands, charge about $10 to $25 for most trips from the airport to around Albuquerque. Sun Tran Buses stop at the sunburst signs every 30 minutes; the fare is $1. Some hotels provide shuttle service to and from the airport. Airport Shuttle and Sunport Shuttle both cost less than $10 to most Downtown locations.
Shuttle buses between the Albuquerque International Sunport and Santa Fe take about 1 hour and 20 minutes and cost about $20 to $25 each way. Shuttle service runs from Albuquerque to Taos and nearby ski areas; the ride takes 2¾ to 3 hours and costs $40 to $50. In southern New Mexico there are daily trips between El Paso International Airport and Las Cruces (1 hour), Deming (2½ hours), and Silver City (3½ hours); the trip costs $43 to $75 each way.
There's also Greyhound bus service between Albuquerque International Sunport and many New Mexico towns and cities; times are much more limited but fares are considerably less than those charged by the shuttle services listed here.
Transfers Between Airports
Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
Sandia Shuttle Express (505/474–5696 or 888/775–5696. www.sandiashuttle.com.)
Between Albuquerque and Taos
Between El Paso and Southern New Mexico Destinations
Las Cruces Shuttle Service. 575/525–1784 or 800/288–1784. www.lascrucesshuttle.com.