SRQ had a big year of growth in 2018. Here’s what to expect from the airport in 2019

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, which saw double-digit passenger growth during much of 2018, can expect more of the same in 2019.

That is, at least into the summer months, according to airport president and CEO Rick Piccolo, who addressed a Manatee Chamber of Commerce headliner luncheon on Wednesday at Holiday Inn Sarasota-Airport.

Despite all the growth in 2018, which saw two new carriers (Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines) serving SRQ and the addition of 20 new routes and 15 new destinations, Piccolo shows no signs of taking his hand off the growth throttle.

He would like to see new nonstop Northeast and Midwest destinations added to places such as Buffalo, N.Y., Detroit and Minneapolis, and more of a westward reach, including to Houston.

Piccolo would also like to see international destinations added, perhaps to Montreal, London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

“We meet with the airlines all the time. We have met with all of them, I think, except Aeroflot,” he said.

And well he might after so many lean years.

“It’s finally starting to pay off,” Piccolo said, adding that SRQ can accept more growth with half the terminal capacity unused and plenty of parking available.

Where might growth come from?

Perhaps by adding Air Canada or Spirit Airlines.

Although Piccolo holds his cards close to the vest, he hopes to have another announcement to make in the next month.

One airline can make a huge difference in business at an airport, something that Piccolo saw after Allegiant entered the Bradenton-Sarasota market and began offering low-cost fares to several new destinations.

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Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, discusses the improving fortunes of the airport during a Manatee Chamber of Commerce Headliner luncheon on Wednesday. James A. Jones Jr.

Piccolo admitted that Allegiant holds a special place in his heart.

Allegiant commenced service at SRQ in April 2018 with service to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Before the year was out, Allegiant announced it would be adding several new non-stop destinations between February and April, including Asheville, N.C.; Baltimore; Harrisburg, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Cleveland; Richmond, Va.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Nashville, Tenn.

American added flights to Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth and Philadelphia. Frontier commenced service Dec. 10 with service to Cleveland, Philadelphia and Atlanta. United added a second daily flight to Newark, N.J., and to Denver for March 9-30.

Letitia Louise, who operates Platinum Blue, LLC, a private ride service, came away from the luncheon impressed with the solid financial position of the airport — no debt, $24 million in cash and investments, and the fact that the airport has no taxing powers.

She also liked the idea that Piccolo mentioned that Frankfurt, Germany, could be a possible future destination.

Piccolo asked that residents consider SRQ when making their travel plans. The cost to fly out of Tampa International Airport might not always be lower, he said, and the travelers can save a lot of time and driving by flying out of their local airport.

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A jetBlue airliner picks up speed down the runway to take off from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on Wednesday. James A. Jones Jr.

Kerry Ward and John Lang of Bank OZK were discussing Piccolo’s remarks afterward.

“I continue to be amazed at how well that airport is run,” Ward said.

Any destinations on their wish list for SRQ?

Lang said he was happy that SRQ has added service to Pittsburgh, his hometown.

After he pause, he offered a suggestion: Las Vegas.

“It would be nice to be able to do a quick, low-cost weekend in Las Vegas,” Lang said wistfully.

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