Author Topic: Regularly scheduled flights could be coming back to St. Augustine airport  (Read 1995 times)

Offline KB4TEZ

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A special meeting of the St. Johns County Airport Authority on Monday signals either the likely return of commercial air service at the Northeast Florida Regional Airport — or a complete departure from what has been a consistent goal for the St. Augustine airport.

The five-member board will decide whether to embark on contract negotiations with a low-cost carrier — which cannot be named at this time — that wants to bring service to multiple destinations to St. Augustine.

The agenda documents show that a carrier is interested in a total of nine flights per week between the following destinations: New Haven, Connecticut; Wilmington, Delaware; and Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.

If the airport board goes forward with the initiative, an official announcement could come as early as March. And flights could begin in June, the agenda documents said.

Airport Executive Director Ed Wuellner could say only that he's been in talks with the airline for many months about bringing service here. That's been one of his consistent missions for nearly two decades.
There have been a handful of short-term successes, going back to 2007-08, when ultra low cost carrier Skybus had service to Columbus, Ohio; and Greensboro, North Carolina. Arrangements with Skybus, as well as later deals with Frontier Airlines and Elite Airways, ended with either the airlines going out of business or seeking more lucrative markets.

Now, the airport authority board will decide whether it wants to give another airline its chance to make this destination work. Wuellner has no say in the matter but simply brings the proposal to the board for a vote.

Restarting commercial air service would require little to no capital investment, Wuellner said, since the airport is already set up to support the business.

"The public investment in infrastructure has already been made by the airport authority, the FAA, the Department of Transportation," he said. "Equipment, the airline terminal, apron, all the supporting infrastructure for air service has already been invested in. I think it's important that we make good use of that investment."

The last service through St. Augustine was by Elite Airways, which flew to Newark, New Jersey; and Portland, Maine. But that airline ceased operations in June 2022.Wuellner said he's been told that that airline plans to resume service in St. Augustine and elsewhere soon, but he didn't have anything official from the company at this time.

"I have reason to believe they're on their way back," Wuellner said.

In addition to those service initiatives, the St. Augustine airport also received a grant for $700,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation and a promise for $300,000 from the county visitors and convention bureau to facilitate air service to Charlotte, North Carolina.

However, that money has not been spent because no airline has come forward to provide that service yet. It was thought that American Airlines would step forward because it has a hub in Charlotte.

"The grant is still active; it's just that no one is using it," Wuellner said.