New Airport Set to Triple Numbers 2011

by January 12, 2011 • 10 comments

This is the first article in a series that explores 2011 Tourism Predictions for Panama City Beach.

Spring is right around the corner, and along with the knowledge of the coming season, we’re finding that our town is divided into three parts. The Optimists, The Pessimists and The Realists.

At times, it looks as though the Realists Team and the Optimists Team are on the same page, leaving the Pessimists to bemoan, well – everything.

For the most part, the Panama City Beach community is fanning those beginning sparks of excitement, while remaining optimistically cautious, over the vast potential of the 2011 tourism season.

Instead of sitting around speculating any longer, we decided to check in with some of PCB’s seasoned pro’s, those business savvy locals, who’ve been through this whole tourism thing a time or two.

Logically, one of the first places we would reach out to is Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Thankfully, our instincts paid off and we were lucky enough to catch up with the airport’s Executive Director, Randy Curtis.

He stated that trying to nail down official numbers for the 2011 season, is tricky considering the new airport is less then a year old, (which is exactly what the Media point-person from Southwest Airlines told me). However, Randy was willing to share their current estimates with us, based off the overall statistics taken from the July-August season in 2010, then compared to the old-airport’s numbers during the same monthly time frame, in 2009

As we’ve reported, in July-August 2009, the now dubbed “old airport” handled about 30,000 monthly passengers.

In 2010, however, during those same summer months, the numbers jumped to an astounding 83,000 passengers (per month) despite negative, national media coverage of BP’s oil disaster and the nations economical hardships.

Yet, even with our pristine beaches untouched by the oil, and the relentless national coverage, we maintained our appeal to vacationers, and in October 2010, we seduced 73,000 passengers into the new-airport’s, convenient location.

Impressive numbers, confirmed by the man who makes the airports success, his business. In an effort to sum up our conversation, Randy Curtis simplified the numbers-by stating that this year’s expectations are leaning towards “3x’s the number of passengers the old airport handled during the same time frame”

This is wonderful news to those Optimists, intriguing news to the Realists, and for you Pessimists roaming around out there, this news just translates into more of those “pesky kids” hanging out on your lawn.

Regardless, it’s a great start to our 2011 Tourism Predictions series.

In our next article, we’re following the sandy seashores to check in with Paul Wohlford, Vice-President of Sales & Marketing for the Resort Collection of Panama City Beach.

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1 Isaac Eiland-Hall January 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I heard reports that hotels and such were reporting lower numbers last year; so if the new airport’s numbers were up – does that mean that a number of our visitors flew instead of drove?

Also, I remember hearing about provisions to cover Southwest’s business costs if the routes didn’t prove to be profitable — what level is that? As in, how far above that level were we last year (assuming we were)? I think that would be another good thing to know – because a lot of pessimists were arguing that we’d be giving Southwest money until that contract was over, then losing them again from the market.


2 Lisa Egstad January 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Southwest has been profitable since day one from our new airport according to their VP Bob Montgomery – St. Joe agreed to compensate them if they weren’t but it’s not been an issue


3 Leslie January 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I am one of the optimists and look forward to a busy and profitable 2011 season for Panama City Beach.


4 Vera January 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I am glad to hear that Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport doing great. We need this business. Thank you Southwest Airlines. I am looking forward to new flights to Panama City.


5 Gary January 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm

When is Southwest going to have some non-stop flights to PCB from St. Louis and Chicago? That’s when I will fly. Flew Delta there once and you have to lay over in Atlanta or Dallas. I only saved 2 hours over driving and it cost 4 times as much as the gas.


6 Lisa Egstad January 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Southwest already had service to/from Chicago – you stop in Nashville but you don’t have to change planes!


7 Linda January 18, 2011 at 8:43 am

Gary, I fly out of OHare using Delta with my layover in Memphis. I prefer this to SW as you have to fly out of Midway. I wait until Delta has a sale. I flew for less than SW charged. Layovers through Memphis can be estimated anywhere between 40mins and 1.5hr.
Also, SW is advertising in the Chicago Market again. Usually during late night that I’ve noticed.


8 Cathy January 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

We would love to fly to PCB instead of the 7 1/2 hour drive time……. but, it just is not cost efficent for us. By the time we pay for our tickets, fly out of Nashville…… hire a cab & rent a car for a week the cost is not a savings for us yet, I see how it is for people who live in the North.
Either way I sincererly believe PCB needed an airport, it will open up a world of vacationers etc. to fly in.
I just hope it’s been built large enough to handle the volume of visitors I forsee who will use it in the future, knowing the parking lot has already had to be made bigger.
Anyway, good luck to the “New” Airport in 2011… I hope one day to use it!
Thank you,


9 Lisa Egstad January 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm

For those of you interested in flying in a little further west, Vision Airlines just announced direct service into Ft. Walton Beach from several cites – Check out their website at