Elite Airways Begins Direct Flights from SRQ to Portland

Airport

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY NOV 18, 2016

A welcome arch of blue, white and black balloons hangs above gate B14 at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) as debarking passengers herald the arrival of Elite Airways and the first nonstop flight from Portland, ME to SRQ. The seventh carrier to partner with the airport, Elite brings twice-weekly nonstop flights from SRQ to Portland and, according to Elite Airways President John Pearsall, plans for expansion.

Flying out on Thursdays and Sundays, Elite jets can shuttle up to 70 passengers per flight, with seats arranged in a two by two formation to eliminate the discomfort of middle seats. And in a world of growing fees, Elite offers no penalty for changing tickets and passengers can check one bag free of charge. “The word ‘free’ is not something you hear a lot these days when traveling by air,” says SRQ President and CEO Rick Piccolo by way of commendation. “Elite Airways is an established carrier with an impeccable safety record and a reputation for quality and service. We’re excited about both the new service and the growth possibilities the presence of Elite provides for our community.”

Pearsall echoes the sentiment, recognizing economic growth in Sarasota that he describes as “phenomenal” and is seeing that reflected already in heavy sales for the newly announced service from Portland to SRQ. “For us, to bring [Elite] to Sarasota is a tremendous coup,” he says, dubbing the flights the “first step in a long and prosperous partnership.” With plans to connect new destinations to SRQ in the near future, “We absolutely see that growing here in Sarasota is the way to go,” says Pearsall.

Also pet-friendly, some travelers are already seeing the benefit of the new service. For Tim and Jennifer Smale having a nonstop flight from Portland to SRQ was a relief, especially when travelling with their cat Mia, who’s not the biggest fan of air travel. “Having a direct flight made all the difference,” says Tim. “This is perfect.” It’s the Smales first time wintering in Sarasota, but they can see it becoming a regular thing.

Elite Airways flights connecting Portland and SRQ are currently scheduled through April, with spring and summer schedules to be released by late December.

Pictured: Elite Airways' inaugural flight from Portland, ME to SRQ arrives. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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