More nonstop flights coming to Southwest International airport

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Southwest Florida International Airport

11000 Terminal Access Road, Fort Myers, FL

— Airlines now have a bigger incentive to bring new nonstop flights to Southwest Florida.

Commissioners for the Lee County Port Authority, which governs Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, agreed 4-0 Monday to offer fee waivers to airlines that add nonstop flights.

Additionally, Southwest Airlines will bring a third nonstop flight to Baltimore from January through March, said Bob Ball, executive director of the airport.

Air Canada also will bring back seasonal service to Montreal after a three-year hiatus. Flights will begin in early December.

It’s “a testament to the airline’s faith in the RSW (Southwest Florida airport) market,” Ball said.

Travelers said Monday that nonstop flights sometimes make or break a decision to visit Southwest Florida, or elsewhere.

Laura Bach, 34, of Washington, D.C., who was visiting a friend in Southwest Florida, called herself lazy and said she has canceled travel plans because she couldn’t get a nonstop flight.

“I tell you, we were going to go to St. Martin and we didn’t because we didn’t want to wait the two hours,” she said of a layover.

She and her husband went to Miami and the Florida Keys instead.

Other travelers would pay more for a nonstop flight to save time.

Rita Frank, 58, splits her time between Naples and Canada. Her flight from Buffalo, N.Y., stopped in Atlanta before landing Monday in Fort Myers.

“It’s usually not a big deal, but sometimes you have to wait for hours,” Frank said. “I would like to have one flight coming, one flight going, that’s it.”

For that, Frank would be willing to pay a little more for her ticket.

“It’s time and time’s valuable,” she said.

Benjamin Siegel, deputy executive director of administration, said incentive programs are becoming a necessity to compete for airline service.

“That’s the first question out of their mouth: ‘Tell me about your incentive programs and we’ll tell you about our service,’” Siegel said.

Port Commissioner Brian Bigelow wanted to make sure staff was comparing the airport’s programs with others offering incentives.

“We’re probably not the only one in the state doing this,” Bigelow said.

Siegel said staff monitors practices throughout the country and this program is on the conservative side.

“They’re just flat-out buying the service,” Siegel said of other airports. “We’re trying to share that risk, not buy that service.”

Qualifying airlines could see a partial or full waiver of landing fees, the weight-based charge airlines pay to cover maintenance costs for the landing strip, lights and other services.

For instance, a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 would pay about $365 per landing, according to airport spokeswoman Victoria Moreland.

This is a no-cost incentive for the Port Authority because airlines are responsible for assuring there is enough money to cover maintenance costs. Other flights that don’t qualify for the incentive make up the difference.

The current incentive program was launched in 2002 and brought an additional 2,800 flights that carried 425,000 more seats and generated an additional net profit of $4.5 million.

Frankfurt, Germany and Denver were among several new cities served through the airport.

“We strongly believe that additional success can be reached,” Siegel said.

The airport’s top 150 destinations will now be eligible for the fee waiver instead of just the top 40 cities. And the program will be expanded to all Florida cities, not just Tallahassee and Jacksonville, as it is now.

The airport already services 37 cities nonstop and new destinations could include Seattle, London and Puerto Rico.

Airlines will have several options including a 50 percent discount off landing fees for flights that run once a week for four months or longer for the first two years. After two years, the incentive is a full waiver if the service is continued year-round.

International flights could qualify for a full waiver if the nonstop route runs for three years.

In other news, Page Field General Aviation Airport has a new director, Barry Bratton. Chosen from a pool of 150 candidates, Bratton served 17 years in the U.S. Navy and recently served as the assistant airport manager in Redding, Calif.

Lee County commissioners serve as port commissioners. Commissioner Bob Janes was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Earlier

Airlines have a bigger incentive to bring new nonstop flights to Southwest Florida.

The Board of Port Commissioners for the Lee County Port Authority, which governs Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, agreed 4-0 Monday to offer fee waivers for airlines that add nonstop flights.

Commissioner Bob Janes was absent. Lee County commissioners serve as port commissioners.

Additionally, Southwest Airlines will bring a third nonstop flight to Baltimore from January through March, said Bob Ball, executive director.

Air Canada also will bring back seasonal service to Montreal after a three-year hiatus. Flights will begin in early December.

It’s “a testament to the airline’s faith in the RSW (Southwest Florida airport) market,” Ball said.

Benjamin Siegel, deputy executive director of administration, said incentive programs are becoming a necessity to compete for airline service.

“That’s the first question out of their mouth: ‘Tell me about your incentive programs and we’ll tell you about our service,’” Siegel said.

Commissioner Brian Bigelow wanted to make sure staff was comparing the airport’s programs with others offering incentives.

“We’re probably not the only one in the state doing this,” Bigelow said.

Siegel said staff monitors practices throughout the country and this program is on the conservative side.

“They’re just flat-out buying the service,” Siegel said of other airports. “We’re trying to share that risk not buy that service.”

Qualifying airlines could see partial or full waiver of landing fees, the weight-based charge airlines pay to cover maintenance costs for the landing strip, lights and other services.

For instance, a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 would pay about $365 per landing, according to airport spokeswoman Victoria Moreland.

This is a no-cost incentive for the Port Authority because airlines are responsible for assuring there is enough money to cover maintenance costs. Other flights that don’t qualify for the incentive make up the difference.

The current incentive program launched in 2002 and brought an additional 2,800 flights that carried 425,000 more seats and generated an additional net profit of $4.5 million.

Frankfurt, Germany and Denver were among several new cities served through the airport.

“We strongly believe that additional success can be reached,” Siegel said.

Nonstop flights sometimes make or break a decision to visit Southwest Florida. Travelers such as Laura Bach, 34, who lives in Washington D.C. and was visiting a friend in Southwest Florida, called herself lazy and said she's canceled travel plans because she could not get a nonstop flight.

"I tell you, we were going to go to St. Martin and we didn't because we didn't want to wait the two hours," she said. They went to Miami and the Florida Keys instead. Other travelers would pay more for a nonstop flight to save time. Rita Frank, 58, splits her time between Naples and Canada. Her flight from Buffalo, N.Y. stopped in Atlanta before landing in Fort Myers Monday."It's usually not a big deal, but sometimes you have to wait for hours," Frank said. "I would like to have one flight coming, one flight going, that's it."

And for that Frank would be willing to pay a little more for her ticket.

"It's time and time's valuable," she said.

The airport’s top 150 destinations will now be eligible for the fee waiver instead of just the top 40 cities. And the program will be expanded to all Florida cities, not just Tallahassee and Jacksonville, as it is now.

The airport already services 37 cities nonstop and new destinations could include Seattle, London and Puerto Rico.

Airlines will have several options including a 50 percent discount off landing fees for flights that run once a week for four months or longer for the first two years. After two years, the incentive is a full waiver if the service is continued year-round.

International flights could qualify for a full waiver if the nonstop route runs for three years.

In other news, Page Field General Aviation Airport has a new director, Barry Bratton. Chosen from a pool of 150 candidates, Bratton served 17 years in the U.S. Navy and recently served as the assistant airport manager in Redding, Calif.

Earlier

Airlines have a bigger incentive to bring new nonstop flights to Southwest Florida.

The Board of Port Commissioners for the Lee County Port Authority, which governs Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, agreed 4-0 this morning to offer waived fees for airlines that add nonstop flights.

Commissioner Bob Janes was absent. Members of the Lee County Commission serve as the port authority.

Southwest Airlines will bring a third nonstop flight to Baltimore from January through March, said Bob Ball, executive director of the port authority.

Air Canada will also bring back service to Montreal after a three-year hiatus.

It's "a testament to the airline's faith in the RSW (Southwest Florida) market," Ball said.

Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at http://www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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