St. Augustine/St. Johns County, FL – Just in time for the launch of the holiday season in the nation’s oldest city, friends and families had something extra special to be thankful for as passengers arrived with great fanfare when their plane reached the tarmac under an arch of water cannon greetings just days before Thanksgiving.
Taking a plane and a train to get to his destination Rob C. was ready to make history as one of the very first passengers to fly into St. Augustine on the new route. Disembarking off the sleek Elite Airways plane on Friday afternoon, he was welcomed by tourism officials and news media, eager to hear about his trip.
Among dozens of passengers arriving at the Northeast Florida Regional Airport on November 19th, this group of passengers was the first to arrive via the new non-stop flight from Newark Liberty International Airport, effectively connecting the New York and New Jersey markets to northeast Florida.
Excited, Rob said he wanted to show his support for the route by being on the first inbound flight.
“I live here in St. Augustine and I’m here to support it,” he said after starting his trek 24 hours before to catch the flight home. “It was nice, not crowded. It was a big plane, comfortable, lots of leg room. This saves an hour drive to Jacksonville and the flight was quick too.”
Also on the flight to St. Augustine, another passenger was ready to head home from the regional airport nestled just outside of the city of St. Augustine. Working in New York, the new route provides easy, direct access between his home in St. Johns County and place of employment in New York.
“I work in New York and decided to take this flight because it was not only flying into this airport but it’s closer for me to get to my house than Jacksonville,” he said.
“It’s a pretty inexpensive flight so it works well for me and it’s going to help me immensely.”
Reuniting family, Tricia was greeted by her brother John Martin, sister-in-law Nina LeFleur and her mother Diane Martin, after arriving on Elite Airways.
“My family lives here and I live up there so I’m hoping this flight stays with us. That would be great,” she said.
“To have John’s sister be able to fly right in, it took us about 5 minutes to get to the airport from home. This is wonderful,” said LeFleur.
John Martin said he was happy to have an even more convenient way to connect his family, especially ahead of the holiday season.
“It’s super exciting and it makes it very convenient for us and the whole family,” said Martin.
“My mom lives in Palencia, my uncle lives in Palencia, and my uncle also has a place in Westchester so we’re looking forward to the opening up of more hubs because it would only be 10 minutes away from both. This is a great avenue to come down for our area. We’re really excited and we hope that it does very well.”
Serving business commuters, families and vacationers, the expansion of Elite Airways’ service to include St. Augustine is something both tourism officials and the airport authority are thrilled about.
“They’ll be here for Light Up night and so we’re excited about that, and we know they’ll be excited about it,” shared Richard Goldman, President and CEO of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau.
While it was a bit blustery upon arrival, Goldman’s sunny smile and positivity radiated to airline passengers as he greeted them with welcome gift bags.
“It’s an 88-seat airplane so we’re nearly 50 percent full right out of the box, so everybody seems to be great,” said Ed Wuellner, executive director for the Northeast Florida Regional Airport.
“I think it’s going to be tremendous here. This is the number one market without question that we’d love to have connected to us. These guys provide a great niche market. It’s a great location and I understand the gate location in Newark puts them right next to the train stop to get into the city, so it could not be easier for somebody looking to get up there and have a good time.”