Airport begins commercial flights in time for holidays

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The Northeast Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine welcomed back commercial flights for the first time a little more than two years Nov. 19.

“It’s exciting for Elite Airways and the City of St. Augustine, because you’ve got non-stop service to a place that is highly desirable in New York and New Jersey,” Elite Airways CEO John Pearsall said. “I believe there are so many people here from the northeast that will take advantage of it.”

A ceremony was held to commemorate the landing of the first scheduled commercial flight into the airport since 2018, and the timing could not have been better as it came just in time for the holiday season.

The catalyst behind introducing commercial flights once again is a partnership between the airport, Elite Airways and the Transportation Security Administration.

According to Pearsall, it is a partnership that has been years in the making.

“We had started talking to Ed (Wuellner, Northeast Florida Regional Airport Executive Director) and his group before the pandemic, but of course the pandemic hit and everything got put on hold,” Pearsall said. “We saw the opportunity that there wasn’t anyone hear or planning to return for the time being.”

Wuellner does not see there being any major issues with the logistics of operation by adding commercial flights, especially since much of the airport staff has experienced having handled such flights at the airport in the past.

“The good part is we’ve done this before, so our guys are pretty seasoned and know the procedures in place what has to be done,” Wuellner said.

Working with a trusted business partner that shares a similar philosophy is vital to the success of any operation. Pearsall believes that is what makes the relationship between Elite Airways and the airport a perfect fit.

“It’s a great feeling,” Pearsall said. “Ed and the airport staff have been so enthusiastic. We think it is going to be a long relationship and we look forward to eventually adding some additional destinations.” 

The flights will run to and from the airport and Newark, New Jersey. The plan is to have flights scheduled Mondays and Fridays with an ideal arrival time of 12:45 p.m. and departure at 1:15 p.m.

“For us it’s super exciting to welcome commercial service back,” Wuellner said. “It is by far and away the largest market that is of interest to this area. We look forward to great things to come.”

The fact that there are a lot of transplants from the northeast that have come to Florida over the years was a factor that weighed heavily when making the decision of which destination would be best suited.

“It’s an ideal route to start with,” Pearsall said.

The plane used will be a 90-seat jet with two-by-two seating, which means no middle seats.

Tickets will start at $129 each way and will include bag checking, carry-on, seat selection and no change fee.

“We think that our pricing is nice, in that everything is included in the price,” Pearsall said.

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