St. Johns County, FL (October 12, 2021) Just in time for the holidays, the Northeast Florida Regional Airport is making trips from New England even easier with direct flights from Newark Liberty International Airport directly to St. Johns County and the greater Jacksonville area, thanks to a new relationship formed with Elite Airways.
John Pearsall, president of the Portland, Maine-based Elite Airways made the announcement on Tuesday, with regional business and tourism leaders on hand to celebrate the return of commercial flights on November 19th, just one day before the official start of the holiday season in St. Augustine.
As one of the nation’s top rated holiday destinations featuring the City of St. Augustine’s signature Nights of Lights display starting on November 20th and culminating in the new year, it’s a world class welcome for guests to Florida’s Historic Coast.
With visitors already traveling to the area from the southeastern United States, Richard Goldman, President & CEO of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitor and Convention Bureau welcomes the opportunity to dazzle visitors from destinations in the north.
“The return of scheduled service is wonderful, and the schedule they have planned is perfect for our destination, connecting us to the New York metro area. It’s another way that our destination can become even more sophisticated, even more sustainable as a destination, so we’re excited,” he said.
Touring the 90 seat plane, St. Johns County administrator Hunter Conrad was proud of the collaboration between community partners facilitating a new opportunity to provide economic development within the county and additional transportation resources for residents and visitors.
“Our primary goal was to partner with the Visitors and Convention Bureau and Airport Authority to make sure we were available in any capacity, with any assistance they would need in the future, as they go through all the processes,” said Conrad.
“It provides a quicker means of transportation to get to the community for tourists or for those who are wanting to travel and stay somewhere else. It (also) provides a quick opportunity to hop on a flight, close in town, so they don’t have to travel to Jacksonville or Orlando.”
Offering luxurious travel accommodations at a competitive price point, travelers can easily head out for a weekend getaway or business trip with fewer complications, making regional travel options even more attractive, according to Ed Wuellner, executive director of the St. Johns Airport Authority.
“The larger hubs are increasingly complicated, increasingly busy. The experience is getting worse for most people and the time required is increasing, so when you look at these smaller airports it’s a no-brainer for most people,” he said.
Wuellner was quick to share credit for the success of the new relationship with Elite Airways.
“It’s a couple of years since we had service, that’s for sure. We’re super excited. It was really a community effort in this case. We worked directly with TDC and VCB and others in the community to make sure we presented the best foot forward we could possibly do for the carrier,” said Wuellner.
“I think we’ve distinguished ourselves as one of the better regional airports in the country, very thriving, growing general aviation at our core, nothing changes in that respect, but the ability to add commercial service and serve the general population to a higher level is something we’ve been trying to do for years,” said Wuellner.
“One of the big attractants was second home ownership, believe it or not. It’s people who own homes in both those general areas, our county as well as the New York area, so that’s a highly popular demographic to look at because it has a built-in market. It’s by far the largest market in northeast Florida.”
As more Americans discovered northeast Florida during the pandemic, St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Isabelle Renault says they have helped pave the way for the influx of businesses looking to relocate or expand to the area, with the new scheduled route increasing opportunities for connectivity.
“This is a big deal to St. Johns County to have this commercial airline directly into St. Augustine from New Jersey. It’s a big deal for tourism development and economic development in our community,” she said.
“It makes it much easier to come and look at St. Johns County directly and St. Augustine, and start their search from New Jersey to our area, and also to have our local businesses who may have ties to New Jersey to be able to go back and forth as needed. We look at it as infrastructure support for our local businesses as well (as the ability) to be able to access those markets.”
Thanking community leaders for their support of the new route, Pearsall’s optimism laid the groundwork for Elite Airways’ bright future in St. Johns County.
“The timing is right,” said Pearsall. “We feel a very warm commitment from everybody. We look forward to being a long-term partner here at St. Augustine, and we look forward to opening other cities, to be announced at a later time.”
To read the official press release, click here.
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Featured Photo: An exciting moment for northeast Florida as Elite Airways makes the official announcement of service between the greater New York area and St. Augustine at the Northeast Florida Regional Airport on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.