Southwest Airlines adds Non-Stop Flights from St. Louis

For a little seasonal boost, Southwest Airlines is opening up direct access to beaches of Northwest Florida to our mid-west residents of St. Louis this summer.  In a blog post released April 2nd (sorry this wasn’t quick enough for you Andy), SWA made this announcement along with a slew of other changes/additions to their 2012 schedules.

They kidded, “So…if we announced all of this yesterday, you’d think it was an April Fool’s joke.  BUT IT’S NOT!”

Details about the flights.

The non-stop flights between St. Louis (STL) and Panama City Beach’s Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) will begin on Monday June 3 and seem to run through the end of October.  The prices look to range from $130-$200 one-way.  In the last couple years, the Midwest has become a quickly growing segment that’s interested in vacationing in our area.  Out of the top 15 states we’ve serviced guests from in the last year, our vacation rental company has accommodated guests from 5 of the official 12 Midwestern states.

In addition to the strong rental stats, looking at our traffic on PCBDaily, Missouri ranks in the top 12 for states whose residents have read our blog in the last month.

Keep a sharp eye out for other sweet additions and changes to the Southwest Airlines offerings in our area.

 

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Launches New Website

Jason Koertge has an awesome vacation rental business in Panama City Beach that focuses on remarkable properties right on the gulf.  They range from 1 to 4 bedrooms, they’re clean, and amazing.  He can be found lurking at PCBLP.com.

I thought the old website looked pretty good, but apparently it lacked some desired functionality.  The new website just launched Tuesday of this week and features “an updated design, social media integration and streamlined information for travelers, including a new real-time flight tracking feature.”

As you know, the new airport is located just north on Highway 79 and to the east about 5 miles on Highway 388.  It was relocated there a couple years back in what was a bold and revolutionary move as it was the first new airport to be built since 9/11/01.

We’re planning on visiting the new airport again (we’ve obviously been a ton of times) to shoot a video tour for our readers.

What are some of the things you’d like to see us show?

Press release for the website launch

PANAMA CITY, FL (February 14, 2012) – Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport has unveiled a new website that will make traveling even more convenient for flyers. The new website features an updated design, social media integration and streamlined information for travelers, including a new real-time flight tracking feature.

The Airport understands that a seamless online experience is more important than ever in an increasingly interactive world where most consumers are making their travel plans online.

“We wanted to provide our customers with a website that quickly answers their questions and allows them to effortlessly make travel decisions” said John Wheat, the Airport’s Executive Director.

Website visitors can obtain real time updates on arrivals and departures, follow flights on an interactive route map and track individual flights throughout the country.

Residents looking for a getaway will be able to choose from the Airport’s daily direct flights with service to Atlanta, GA (ATL), Baltimore, MD (BWI), Houston, TX (HOU), Nashville, TN (BNA), and Orlando, FL (MCO), as well as connecting service to worldwide destinations.

Website visitors looking to learn more about what Northwest Florida has to offer will be seamlessly connected to the Airport’s exceptional tourism partners who stand ready to help them plan the perfect getaway to Panama City, Panama City Beach, Florida’s Forgotten Coast or the 15 Beach Neighborhoods of South Walton.

“Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport offers the lowest average airfares in the region, allowing travelers to save an average of $150 on each trip they take,” said Andy McKenzie, Chairman of the Airport’s Board of Directors. “The new website is an important tool in helping us spread the word that our Airport is the most convenient and cost effective option.”

The Airport will also soon be launching a mobile site that is fully compatible with handheld devices. This site will provide a more user friendly experience when viewing from a mobile device, whether at the Airport or on the go.

For more information, visit www.IFlyBeaches.com.

New Airport Names New Executive Director

There has been some changes in management at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.  Former Executive Director Randy Curtis has been moved to a different role, Director of Special Projects and John Wheat was named the Executive Director.  This move came quickly with little fanfare and only but a little commotion from one of the board members who held the only dissenting vote – Andy McKenzie.  McKenzie’s quarrel with the swift action was that it was just that, too fast.

In the past, airport positions have been well publicized, accepted many resumes and have opened up discussion for the board in advance.  The hiring of Wheat was fast, not well discussed in public and actually slipped through in the board meeting without his name being mentioned.

The quick movements were justified by other board members by the time-sensitive negotiations the board was in with Southwest and Delta Airlines over future landing fees.  As of date, the airlines have not been happy with the pace of negotiations and the new appointments were expected to accelerate a final agreement.  Landing fees are a significant revenue generator for the airport.  Concurrent with the appointment of Wheat as the new executive director, both airlines and St. Joe gave their nod of approval of Wheat as well.

Another appointment was made as well: Parker McClellan as the Deputy Executive Director.

I bet you’re wondering how much all these guys make.  I know I sure was.  In an article recently released in the News Herald, the annual salaries were noted:  John Wheat, Executive Director, $135,000; Parker McClellan, Deputy Executive Director, $100,000; Randy Curtis, Director of Special Projects, $116,000.

Here is the full press release:

Panama City, Fla. (April 27, 2011) – The Airport Authority has named John Wheat as the executive director of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. As executive director, Wheat is responsible for leading the operational and strategic efforts of the Airport and reports to the Airport Authority Board of Directors. Wheat brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the aviation industry and most recently served as COO of the Tampa International Airport, where he was responsible for the organization’s finances and operations, as well as brings valued relationships with key partners.

The Airport Authority has also introduced a new organizational model for the Airport with a leadership team that is well-positioned to take the organization forward. This includes Parker McClellan as Deputy Executive Director and Randy Curtis as Director of Special Projects. McClellan, who most recently served as the acting director for the Airport, is now the Deputy Executive Director to ensure a comprehensive leadership team with all airport activity working through this position and up to the Executive Director. Curtis will play an important role in the closing of the “old airport”, as well as ensuring the airport maintains positive relationships with various state and federal agencies. His historical and institutional knowledge will be valuable to the upcoming work on behalf of this organization.

With the addition of John Wheat, the Northwest Florida Beaches International leadership team brings the vision, experience and relationships to best leverage one of the community’s greatest assets. This strategic leadership team is focused on driving the region’s economic vitality as they lead the first international airport to open in more than 10 years. The gateway to beautiful world-famous beaches, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport boasts a plethora of convenient flights daily serviced by Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

New Airport Pictures – NEVER BEFORE SEEN

You know how when you see project or construction renderings, the imagery always seems so polished, glossy and beautiful looking?  You always hope the final product will look just half as good as the original artist’s touch, but the real thing just never seems to be quite as beautiful.  Well, in the case of the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport – the exact opposite is true.  The final product, to me, looks even more beautiful than the original artist’s concepts.

Continue reading “New Airport Pictures – NEVER BEFORE SEEN”

Bay County Heart Ball – THIS FRIDAY

Break out your formal wear and red-carpet shoes because this Friday is the American Heart Association’s annual heart ball.  This year they decided to shake things up A LOT and move the ball to a private hangar in the General Aviation facility in the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

Check after the break for the deets.

Continue reading “Bay County Heart Ball – THIS FRIDAY”

New Airport Set to Triple Numbers 2011

This is the first article in a series that explores 2011 Tourism Predictions for Panama City Beach.

Spring is right around the corner, and along with the knowledge of the coming season, we’re finding that our town is divided into three parts. The Optimists, The Pessimists and The Realists.

At times, it looks as though the Realists Team and the Optimists Team are on the same page, leaving the Pessimists to bemoan, well – everything.

For the most part, the Panama City Beach community is fanning those beginning sparks of excitement, while remaining optimistically cautious, over the vast potential of the 2011 tourism season.

Instead of sitting around speculating any longer, we decided to check in with some of PCB’s seasoned pro’s, those business savvy locals, who’ve been through this whole tourism thing a time or two.

Continue reading “New Airport Set to Triple Numbers 2011”