more flights, changing landscape at SWFL airports
And that’s without two major economic drivers fully at play in the region’s changing business landscape: its two major commercial carrier airports.
Now that is changing rapidly as the summer warms up and more and more people are getting vaccinated.
In response, airlines are increasing flights from international airports in Southwest Florida and Punta Gorda.
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Even before these were added, the lines had started at the gates.
April, with its 1.1 million travelers to RSW, brought an unprecedented increase of 2,000% more than a year ago, when a paltry 53,000 walked through the doors at the start of the pandemic.
Following a trend that appeared earlier in the year, Southwest Florida International ranked No. 1 nationally for passenger recovery past Phoenix No. 2, based on counts from January through April and comparing 2021 to 2019, said Victoria Moreland of the airport.
“We have recovered 77% of our traffic, compared to 2019, which was our record year, the best year ever,” said Moreland.
So yes, expect the crowds again.
Of course you could hang out here in the area with all new residents and the lots of tourists coming or drive many hours to get away from it all or just wait a few years for an Elon Musk inspired project high speed train to arrive in southwest Florida, if ever.
But if you’re planning air travel for the summer, fall leaves, next year, or the post-pandemic outbreak of weddings, you’ll have more destination options and carriers to consider.
Here are a few :
Southwest Airlines: Cincinnati, Buffalo, Louisville, Denver, Nashville and more
The company announced the addition of a flight from Cincinnati to Southwest Florida International, starting in June and bringing the total number of routes available locally to 23.
It also decided to resume flights in June to Buffalo and Louisville after initially ending those with the traditional end of Easter stays for snowbirds, according to the carrier’s network planners Jeremy Ramirez and Nate Mulder.
► Instead of being only seasonal, it now serves Dallas and Houston all year round.
► Instead of ending its winter and spring schedule, Southwest has adjusted its plans to extend its summer flights to Cleveland, Denver, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Nashville and Providence.
► All of this is linked to a wider national expansion which includes five more flights to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Southwest Airlines debuted in February. In addition, it has increased the number of trips through Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
Spirit Airlines: Kansas City, Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Indy and others
In November, Spirit will start offering flights in Louisville and Kansas City of Fort Myers.
Nor has it ended its normally seasonal flights. Instead, you can fly during the summer to Boston, Cleveland, Columbus, Hartford, Indianapolis, Minneapolis / St. Paul, Pittsburgh and the New York City hub of Newark, New Jersey.
Nationally, Spirit has been added in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Las Vegas, and other locations.
Allegiant: Baltimore, among 45 spots
Allegiant, which uses the Punta Gorda airport for about 45 destinations, added Baltimore as one of its stops from there.
“Punta Gorda is an important part of our network,” said Drew Wells, senior vice president of revenue and planning for Allegiant. “We are delighted to offer this new service to Baltimore, which serves as a gateway to a variety of recreational opportunities.”
The new non-stop line operates twice a week.
Sunshine Country: Minnesota, Wisconsin
Due to our ever-growing connection to Minnesota, you have even more choices in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
There are five different options for getting to Minneapolis via RSW and the Punta Gorda Airport, leading anywhere else, despite being the 16th largest metropolitan area in the country.
This city also provided more flyers to Southwest International in 2020 than any other location except Chicago, the bustling hub of the country and the world.
Sun Country Airlines now plans to launch Fort Myers service to and from Duluth, Minnesota, and Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, starting in December, with plans to add Rochester, Minnesota in February 2022.
It will also begin flying to the Punta Gorda Airport, giving residents of southwest Florida another way to get to Minneapolis from December on its Fort Myers route. Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Spirit also travel there via RSW. At one point, Frontier Airlines was also listed as a direct MSP.
International: Lufthansa Group
Lufthansa Group reservations have started for its new Eurowings Discover 2022 flights to Fort Myers.
It’s part of a global expansion.
Three flights per week are scheduled to Frankfurt from March, according to Lufthansa.
And the Naples airport?
It is modernizing its terminal with a $ 7.6 million project that is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving.
Among the renovations: an improved lobby, an expanded passenger lounge, a food and beverage market, road improvements, additional exterior awnings and improved offices.
The project is funded by airport revenues, without the use of local tax money, officials said.