Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport – Happy Birthday!

One year and 800,000 passengers later, the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is regarded a huge success.  Today was the one year anniversary to the opening of the new airport in Panama City Beach.  The celebration included a gathering, speeches and the unveiling of a huge “rock” that commemorated the sponsors involved in the Grand Opening one year ago today.

Serving 800,000 passengers in the past year, the new location has catapulted the airport traffic above Tallahassee and just below Pensacola’s airport which sees an estimated 1 million annual passengers.  The current traffic is three times greater than the traffic the old airport saw annually.

In addition to making our area more accessible to vacation travelers across the country, the new airport has also decreased the average per flight rate by 31%.  This is an average across the board, factoring in rates from Delta as well.

The new lower rates has rippled through local industry, offering savings that’s enabled companies to hire more people, bring on new projects and overall expand.  Applied Research, who employs around 200 people, 100 of which have PhD’s and Master degrees in various arenas, spends roughly $700k in airline tickets every year.  The 30% savings has resulted in around $216k that they’ve been able to keep in their pocket to use in their business, reported Glen McDonald, their Senior VP.

The new airport’s Southwest carrier services 4 locations with 8 flights a day, which equates to 2,000 seats every day.

Commissioner Mike Thomas said people would complain about just about anything.  He recounted this morning that he got a call at 7:30 am about a rooster crowing in their neighborhood off Thomas Drive.  He said he welcomed that call, mentioning that if that’s all someone has to complain about, it must be a beautiful day.  He said he fielded tons of other complaints over the years about the new airport but agreed it was a success and was proud to have supported it in its development.

All in all, it was a fun event.  The growth of our area is apparent with the new airport, and no doubt, it’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities for local travel out and visiters traveling in.

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