Paul Andrews is a Charlotte County Airport Authority Commissioner. Column provided to the Charlotte Sun.
Punta Gorda Airport Has An Amazing Story
PUNTA GORDA (February 3, 2023) – At the January CCAA meeting our CEO James Parish delivered the 2023 State of the Airport with a PowerPoint presentation and commented “This is the best year ever. Passenger numbers exceeded 1.8 million and our operating margin was 24%.”
At the close of the meeting I commented, “What an incredible story” in reference to the amazing transformation of Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) over the past two decades. So as Paul Harvey would say, “Now the rest of the (incredible) story.”
On Friday, August 13, 2004 Hurricane Charley arrived at PGD with such ferocity and destruction that the airport was almost wiped off the map. Our former Executive Director, Gary Quill, told me that the following day he was concerned whether or not the airport was even solvent at that time. It was during the rebuilding process that the Charlotte County Airport Authority Board decided to bring airline service by adapting a business model being used in Europe to attract Ultra Low Cost Carriers. The first carrier to arrive was Skybus; and while it was short lived, it did prove that the model worked. After a few other carriers had come and gone Allegiant arrived and the rest is, as they say, history.
The low-cost business model means that we keep our operational costs down, utilizing lots of federal and state grants, so that we remain attractive to airlines. Passengers enjoy low ticket prices because the costs to the airlines are lower here, and the Airport Authority keeps all the associated revenues from passenger parking, ground transportation and concessions. We bank those revenues to implement new passenger amenities and airport-wide capital improvement projects.
But as everyone knows, nothing ever stands still, as evidenced by the airport weathering through the pandemic and now the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. But in spite of all this, we continue to move forward with two airlines serving the community. We also have several flight schools, CTC’s Airframe and Powerplant school that is training future aircraft mechanics, the new PGD Air Center for general aviation, and we are still growing.
I want to close with economic impact the airport makes on our community. The FDOT’s 2022 Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study values PGD’s total economic impact at $1.7 billion, and attributes more than 11,000 jobs in the region to our airport’s activity. As we incrementally expand to meet growing demand, we’ll continue to improve services and amenities, and create economic benefits for our neighbors throughout Charlotte County.