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If a pollster were to ask, “Would you like to drive a top-of-the-line Mercedes?” we suspect an overwhelming majority would say, “Yes.”

The results would be different if the question were, “Would you like to drive a top-of-the-line Mercedes, knowing that it will cost you hundreds more per month than what you’re currently driving, it won’t be any more convenient and it probably won’t go where you want to go?”

So it was in 2015 when the Naples Airport Authority hired a research firm to gauge interest in commercial passenger service out of Naples.

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Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they’d like the service.

That led the airport to search for an airline to fill the niche.

To entice a carrier, it had to offer discounts on rent.

The taker, Maine-based Elite Airways, offered commercial passenger service to places such as Melbourne and Vero Beach in Florida, Portland, Maine, and Newark, New Jersey.

Despite the poll results, fliers voted with their pocketbooks and continued to use Southwest Florida International Airport instead.

Elite’s flights were typically less than half full, and it suspended service after about a year.

A similar experiment involving Delta Airlines a decade earlier also collapsed.

With that history in mind, we’re not surprised that the Naples Airport master plan now taking shape isn’t banking on regular commercial passenger service as part of the airport’s future.

And we’re OK with that.

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With the convenience of Southwest Florida International just a short drive up Interstate 75 — a drive made even shorter by the completion of the airport exit leading straight to the terminal — there simply isn’t a need for commercial service in Naples.

Lower-priced flights out of Fort Lauderdale and Charlotte County only add to the difficulty of making Naples competitive in that arena.

Far from being just conveniences for private aircraft owners, airports like Naples, called secondary or reliever airports, serve valuable functions in the air travel network.

They take operations away from the passenger hubs, making them run smoother.

They offer flight training and can be diversion sites in cases of bad weather or mechanical problems. In disasters, they serve as staging areas for relief supplies and emergency workers.

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Yes, the Naples Airport makes it convenient for those who can afford to fly in private planes to get into and out of town. It all adds up to a benefit to the local economy of about $440 million a year, according to a Florida Department of Transportation study.

And that comes at no cost to taxpayers. Naples Airport operates without any financial support from the city. Contrast that with Collier County’s airports in Immokalee, Marco Island and Everglades City, which require a taxpayer subsidy to get by.

What is included in the nascent master plan is a call for more hangar space and redevelopment of some of the property, which is hemmed in by development. Those seem like realistic goals.

Because of its location in the heart of the urban area and close to residential neighborhoods, the Naples Airport will always be challenged to limit noise and increase safety.

The governing Airport Authority and executive team have done a reasonable job of both, in our estimation.

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But as traffic at the airport is expected to grow in coming years, those challenges aren’t likely to go away.

A master plan that balances the concerns of residents and the opportunities the airport provides, minus the prospect of commercial service, is where the focus ought to be.

If you’ll excuse the pun, we don’t believe scheduled commercial passenger service there will ever take off.

Brent Batten wrote this for the Naples Daily News editorial board.

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