Naples airport terminal missing more than just commercial airlines

Naples Municipal Airport Terminal

Naples Municipal Airport Terminal

Ted Soliday, Naples Municipal Airport executive director, on NewsMakers 8-5-12.

Ted Soliday, Naples Municipal Airport executive director, on NewsMakers 8-5-12.

— Commercial airline service isn't all that's missing at Naples Municipal Airport.

The commercial terminal at the airport has had vacant spots for business for five years. And it could remain that way until the Naples airport lures more commercial carriers.

"I think it would be a lot easier to get somebody in there if we had scheduled service," Airport Executive Director Ted Soliday acknowledged.

Delta Air Lines stopped serving the airport in 2007; JetBlue backed out recently as a possible carrier to the Naples destination.

The newest scheduled air service, Naples Connection, will take the area that Delta once had at the terminal, Soliday said.

Naples Connection is the only commercial airline set to begin service next year. It will fly nine-passenger planes to four Florida cities with regularly scheduled flights.

"We are trying to find carriers every chance we get," Soliday said.

Also vacant at the Naples Municipal Airport is space once occupied by The Landings Cafe, which closed its doors at the end of July 2011. Since then, nothing has been done to fill the 1,386-square-foot restaurant space.

Soliday said the airport hasn't made any effort to fill it.

Currently, the commercial terminal has four rental car agencies, three tenants who offer charter services and a few vacant ticket counter spots.

Airport spokeswoman Laurel Smith said the existing terminal spaces aren't one-size-fits-all.

"Depending on the size of the aircraft and the number of flights, one airline could need several ticket agents and occupy all available space," she said. "The ticket counter is just one requirement — space also is needed for airline offices and to collect and sort baggage."

Soliday said the space where the restaurant used to be is the only vacant business space at the main terminal and there is one space for a smaller airline, which could be used for a ticket counter.

"We have not reopened the restaurant because we don't have the foot traffic," Soliday said.

In July 2011 when The Landings Cafe closed, its owners told the Daily News that, because there were no commercial airlines, the business wasn't making enough sales and couldn't afford to purchase insurance.

After 10 years of business inside the commercial terminal, the restaurant's lease was terminated on July 26, 2011, because the restaurant failed to carry liability insurance for four months, or come into compliance, according to an airport authority letter sent to then- co-owner John Torres.

Soliday said no businesses have inquired about the vacant space since the cafe closed.

Without commercial airline service, Soliday said he doesn't think opening a restaurant would be easy to do, but the airport always would consider a proposal from a business interested in putting a restaurant there.

Mike Bohaychyk, owner of Bohaychyk Enterprises Inc., an independent rental car operator at the commercial terminal, supports adding air carriers at the Naples Municipal Airport, which he said would boost his business.

He said he is working on an online petition, which could be signed by residents to welcome commercial airlines.

"I think it will be an added service," said Bohaychyk, who has been working at the airport since 2001.

Bohaychyk wants voters to decide if they want commercial services at Naples airport by holding a referendum on the countywide 2014 ballot.

"I will support whatever the community as a whole wants," he said.

Bohaychyk said he couldn't say what percentage of his business decreased solely because of the commercial service ending, since the recession occurred at the same time that the most recent airline service left.

Bohaychyk said it would be nice to have a restaurant for the employees, as well as the patrons.

"We miss the Landing Cafe," he said.

Other car rental tenants said that not offering commercial service has hurt their business. However, the rental car business increases during season.

Also located at the airport is the Museum of Military Memorabilia, which has been open for more than a year.

Museum president Robert McDonald said the museum averages nearly 300 visitors per month.

Despite not having commercial service at the airport, McDonald said the museum is doing well.

"It certainly would have been better if we had gotten JetBlue," he said.

But while the Naples airport terminal needs tenants, that isn't the case at Southwest Florida International Airport, known to travelers as RSW.There currently is no business space available in RSW's terminals, officials said.

All of the space that the airport's concessionaire, HMSHost, leases at RSW is fully occupied and utilized, said Sarah Cody, HMSHost spokeswoman.

Retail contracts at the Fort Myers airport typically are seven to 10 years.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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