By Michael Bonner firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Nov 21, 2017 at 7:24 PM
For the first time in nearly three decades, New Bedford Regional Airport will host a larger volume commercial airline.
Elite Airways announced Tuesday that nonstop jet service from New Bedford to Vero Beach, Florida, would begin Dec. 16 for the holiday season. Seven flights are scheduled with tickets available for purchase at EliteAirways.com.
“We were looking for a Boston-related airport that did not have service into it,” Elite Airways President John Pearsall said. “We look at New Bedford and think we’ve got, for what we do for our customers, the best of both worlds. You’ve got access to Boston. You’ve got access to the Cape. And you’ve got access to Rhode Island. We think it will be a total home run.”
The flight schedule spans Dec. 16 through Jan. 1 with one round trip flight per week. The long-term goal of Elite Airways, though, is to add more permanent flights.
“I’m not asking for (every flight) to be sold out,” Pearsall said. “But we’re asking for some good ridership. If we get that, I think we’ll be (OK).”
Elite Airways runs out of Portland, Maine, and has maintenance, sales and marketing offices in Vero Beach. It also runs flights out of Newark, New Jersey; White Plains, New York; Melbourne, Florida; Sarasota, Florida, and the Bahamas. Pearsall said passengers from other flight destinations showed interest in service to and from New Bedford.
The 17-jet airline began in 2006 and serves private charters as well as commercial service. The fleet consists of two kinds of jets: the Bombardier CRJ-200, which seats 50 passengers, and the CRJ-700, which carries 70 passengers. Both will fly out of New Bedford, Airport Director Scot Servis said.
“It’s a nice moment to celebrate, but there’s still a lot of planning to do and getting more airlines interested,” Servis said. “Getting the first airline here and interested is the first high hurdle to clear. It starts to build a track record when we talk to other airlines to come.”
Future growth could mean as many as 50 new jobs within Elite Airways, including 15 at New Bedford Regional Airport.
“We’re operating on the idea if everyone helps each other we all win in the end,” Servis said.
The partnership between Elite Airways and New Bedford began with a simple door knock in Florida.
Chairperson of the New Bedford Regional Airport Commission, Paul Barton, traveled to Florida three years ago and pitched the value of the airport to Pearsall.
“He’s very persistent in a friendly way,” Pearsall said. “I would say he made this happen. A lot of credit goes to him, and, of course, everyone else on the airport board.”
Barton was traveling Tuesday and was not available to comment on Elite Airways’ announcement, but said in a statement, “We welcome Elite Airways at EWB and believe there’s a compelling economic advantage in bringing people up from Florida to the New Bedford area.”
Three years after meeting Pearsall, the partnership became possible after the airport experienced multiple renovations including 139 certification among other things such as TSA checkpoint.
“We are encouraged that the recent hard work to secure FAA approval for commercial air service from our airport is already paying off,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said.
The upgrades will continue, too. The FAA provided $7.6 million in funding for the reconstruction of runway 14-32. The City Council is set to appropriate that funding Tuesday night to begin construction. Servis said the airport plans to add another smaller airline soon, which would compete with Cape Air in service to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
The airport continues discussions with airlines similar to Elite Airways, Servis said, but no new additions are imminent. The hope is that passenger data from a successful partnership with Elite Airways could lure more business.
“Nothing speaks louder than how many people are on the plane, who they are and where they’re going,” Servis said.
Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.