Business

More new service coming to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, where business is up

Rick Piccolo, left, gives Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority members an upbeat report on business at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on Monday. Shown, seated, are Doug Holder and chairman Robert Spencer, right.
Rick Piccolo, left, gives Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority members an upbeat report on business at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on Monday. Shown, seated, are Doug Holder and chairman Robert Spencer, right. jajones1@bradenton.com

Airport officials and an undisclosed airline are expected to make an announcement Tuesday of new passenger service coming to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

There have been a lot of similar announcements recently, and SRQ officials are smiling.

The airport this year has added two new airlines, Allegiant and Frontier, and traffic numbers are way up.

July saw a 30 percent increase in passenger traffic, on top of a 23 percent increase in June, and a 16 percent increase in May.

Not only that, but airport president and CEO Rick Piccolo told airport authority members Monday that JetBlue, United, Delta and American airlines have agreed to sign on for another five years at SRQ.

Also, airport officials are beginning to think about overflow parking this winter and mentioned the long-term possibility of adding a parking garage.

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The first Allegiant passengers from Indianapolis deplaned at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport earlier this year. Bradenton Herald file photo

“It’s taken 20 years,” Piccolo said of the time needed to bring new dynamism to the airport.

It might have happened sooner, except for the body blows that punished SRQ since 2000, including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Great Recession and the loss of Southwest Airlines and the more than 300,000 passengers traveling to and from the Bradenton-Sarasota area annually.

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James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Factors contributing to the expectations that growth will remain in double-digit mode at SRQ through year’s end include United taking the Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty Airport from seasonal to year-round and adding a second daily Newark flight starting Oct. 4.

Allegiant started service to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Cincinnati on April 11, and JetBlue will be bringing its Boston service back 23 days early starting Sept. 5.

In addition, American Airlines is adding Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare service starting Dec. 19, and is upgrading two of its daily flights to Charlotte from regional jets to the larger Airbus A319.

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James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Finally, Frontier is adding nonstop service to Cleveland beginning Dec. 10.

Jack Rynerson, who served continuously on the Sarasota Manatee Airport board between 2000 and 2015, except for a two-year break, said the uptick in traffic at SRQ is unprecedented.

Allegiant airlines brought its flight of passengers to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on Wednesday, launching a new day of low-cost fares. First passengers arrived from Indianapolis. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are also being served.

Asked if he had seen such growth during his time in the board, Rynerson said, “We never did.”

In anticipation of the stepped-up passenger traffic, the airport authority authorized the expenditure of $228,501, plus a 10 percent contingency, to install 148 more feet of baggage belt in three terminal locations.

“You have only one chance to make a first impression and we want to do it right,” said Robert Spencer, chairman of the airport authority.

The airport authority on Monday approved a budget of $23,070,749 for fiscal 2019, an increase from the $21,022,936 budget for fiscal 2018.

The budget reflects the airport’s growing business. The airport is debt free and operates without property tax revenue.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 1 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Dan P. McClure Auditorium, 5900 Airport Auditorium Lane, at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

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