Breeze Airways’ plans to offer nonstop service to and from Jacksonville to seven cities starting in May is a sure sign that leisure travel is returning to Jacksonville International Airport.
The country’s airports have consistently been busier than at any time since the coronavirus pandemic brought travel to a halt. Jacksonville is no exception.
Numbers speak best, and data from the Jacksonville Aviation Authority shows a steady increase in passenger numbers, especially over the past year. In mid-March, several major airline executives at an investor conference in New York said they had passed on higher fuel prices to passengers. They would be confident in their ability to do so due to travel demand from vacationers and business travelers.
This is a significant change in air travel consumer confidence since the massive decline in air travel at the start of the pandemic. And it’s a big factor in the reopening of Sam Snead’s Grill & Tavern after being closed for nearly two years. This follows the opening of Southern Grounds & Co. last month at the airport, and a few more restaurants — including those tied to Jacksonville — announcing plans to open next year.
Last summer, the JAA reported that the airport’s intermittent expansion was back on the back of an increase in domestic travel. Plans to add a third concourse that would allow Jacksonville to attract more flights and destinations was put on hold in March 2020. But now the authority plans to invest $3 million to complete the design next year .
The news of Breeze Airways’ arrival in Jacksonville is worth celebrating. COVID has wreaked havoc on so many industries, and the aviation industry has been particularly hard hit.
New air service, especially nonstop service, is great news for Jacksonville. This is ideal for business trips and leisure trips, especially since the airline offers lower fares. Air service is essential for a thriving economy, but it hasn’t come easy for many smaller airlines in particular.
This is not something we should take for granted given that the markets served by SkyWest Airlines are all disappointed. Earlier this month, the US Department of Transportation banned regional carrier SkyWest from ending service in 29 areas until replacement carriers can be found under the government’s subsidy program to provide a air service to small communities.
Michael Corrigan, President and CEO of Visit Jacksonville, said he was very excited about Breeze Airways coming here. “It’s a big win for us,” he said. “This is the largest single-serve air service launch in Jacksonville history.”
Corrigan said he’s glad the airline only wants to offer nonstop service to cities where that option hasn’t been available until now. “If they added services to hub markets like Newark, Atlanta, Chicago or Charlotte, that wouldn’t be helpful,” he said. “But with this announcement, we’re not only excited for people to visit, but we’re also looking at ways to cross-promote with cities like New Orleans so people visit both ways.”
“Now we need more flights to the west coast,” Corrigan said. “We hope Breeze enjoys flying here and will consider adding even more options.”
Mayor Lenny Curry said his administration is committing $1 million in marketing and incentives to help Breeze expand its service to Jacksonville. This is funding that the city council should consider supporting.