The rental car center isn't attached to the main terminal, and no flights were affected, said Daniel Jiron, a spokesman for Albuquerque International Sunport. But travelers lined up in long queues for hours, unable to reach their rented cars, as a police bomb squad dealt with the device.
Police said the device was attached to a car that was rented elsewhere and dropped off at the Albuquerque airport, where suspicious staff processing returned cars spotted and reported it. Police didn't identify where the vehicle was originally rented.
Judie Miranda, who went to the airport Sunday morning to pick up a friend only to be greeted by police and roadblocks, told NBC station KOB that she spent hours comforting rental car workers who were told to stay at their posts.
"I can see the fear that they were having," Miranda said. "Here you get a bomb threat, and they keep them in there. It's sad America has to have this fear."
The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating, police said.
Alex Johnson is a reporter and editor for NBC News based in Los Angeles.