For five years Elite Airways has provided flights out of Vero Beach Airport to New York, Ashville, and Portland, Maine. This week the airport commission voted to recommend city council terminate Elite’s operations at the airport. And it has nothing to do with low ridership.
Flights are moving at Vero Beach Airport - just like the chatter inside C.J. Cannon’s Restaurant and Lounge.
”I think it’s foolhardy - completely foolhardy to lose Elite Airways,” said Rhett Palmer, a frequent Elite Airways passenger. “They’ve been great to the community and they need to stay.”
Palmer flies Elite at least six times a year to the northeast. He joins others who say people in this part of the state have limited options to travel conveniently.
“There’s nothing nicer than landing back in Vero Veach and being able to walk homes literally,” said Palmer.
“Vero Beach to New York is our number one market and it has remained that way and in fact, our bookings into the summer are very strong also,” said John Pearsall, CEO, and president of Elite Airways.
Pearsall says on Thursday he learned the city’s airport commission voted to recommend terminating operation of Elite Airways at the airport. He says he was caught off guard.
”It has nothing to do with the airline. It has to do with the funding they receive from the Florida DOT - that if the airline has a certain amount of enplanements the Florida DOT will not match funds for the airport to do improvement projects for taxiways and such,” he said.
City Manager Monte K. Falls says the airport is transitioning from general aviation to a commercial service airport which reduces state grants resulting in a shortfall of $750,000 to $1-million in funding for capital improvement. He adds the airport commission recommended not to renew the license agreement to Elite which is the only commercial carrier at the Vero Beach Airport.
“I can say from our standpoint the airline has every intent to stay here,” Pearsall added.
The future of commercial carriers at the airport will be on the city council agenda on January 21. Elite Airways employs approximately 180 people in Vero Beach.