It’s Official: NW Florida Beaches International Airport Open For Business

by May 24, 2010 • 16 comments

ECP is officially opened for business, and ladies and gentleman, if you didn’t get to take a trip down to the new Northwest Florida International Airport this weekend, you missed one heck of a gala, complete with live music, food, a marching band and a pep rally-style arrival for those lucky few who were first to arrive at the new airport .

Big names were in attendance for the big weekend long event, including governor Charlie Crist, Senator George LeMieux, Senator Ben Nelson and other state an local dignitaries. There was even an invitation to President Obama.

Dan Rowe, president and CEO of Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, in a recent article, said of the event, “There has been tremendous buzz and excitement around the opening of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and I’m personally thrilled the day has arrived.”

The stunning, $318 million facility, built on approximately 1,300 acres of a 4,000-acre site, is the first airport built in nearly 15 years and was designed to achieve Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

As of Sunday, Southwest Airlines is operating daily nonstop service to/from Baltimore, Houston, Nashville and Orlando and Delta Air Lines is servicing the destination with daily nonstop flights to/from Atlanta and Memphis.

“The Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport’s terminal features seven gates, an Audubon Environmental Kiosk, two restaurants, two retail shops, business center, regional information center and seven car rental ticketing counters which include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty.

The airport anchors the city’s 75,000-acre West Bay Sector Plan that designates 41,000 acres for perpetual conservation of the shoreline, adjacent wetlands and the watershed of West Bay. One of the largest conservation areas in Florida, the sector will be available for non-intrusive recreational activities such as kayaking, fishing, birding and hiking. Audubon of Florida is planning a Nature Center on part of the site.

Read more about the airport here.

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1 Mike May 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Great Photos and Video!

Let Tallahassee have some Southwest please!

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2 Michael Shovill May 24, 2010 at 7:20 pm

In 3 years when the St Joe money runs out Southwest will be gone just like US Airways. This market cannot support them especially October – February.

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3 Noel B. May 25, 2010 at 5:47 am

In 3 years I hope you are wrong. =)

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4 Casual Observer May 25, 2010 at 8:16 am

Kind of silly to think that St. Joe’s investment was only a three year plan…

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5 Steve May 25, 2010 at 7:35 am

In the winter, that is when the tourist from other countries will come. Canadian and even Europeans wanting beach vacation. If ECP can attract a foreign carrier, then it will be even more of a blessing.

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6 Debbie Seeley May 25, 2010 at 8:13 am

I personally think it is fabulous! Panama City could use a good shot in the arm and once word gets out, this airport will be buzzing…..I hope!

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7 Bernard May 25, 2010 at 10:06 am

I think the new airport is fantastic. With a few adjustment it would be even better.

1. The airport sign at the entrance, off Hwy 388, need to be lit at night. People are already complaining that they are missing it.
2. Some flights are coming in after 7:30 PM until 11:30PM. The snack bar downstair closes at 5:00PM and the restaurants are closed at 7:30PM I think that business hours could be extended until at least 9:30PM.
3. No payphones. That was a surprise. Every airport should have payphones. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone has a cell phone. Those who have it are sometimes required to pay roming fees, if not from this area. I strongly suggesat that this issue be addressed.
4. Shuttle: Is that an issue on the board? or will every Hotels and Resorts have to provide their own????
5. Vending machine for soda and water or even coffee. In case the restaurants are not opened and neither is the snack bar, vending machines should be considered. If the restaurants will be staying opened until 9:30PM and will be opened for the first 7:30AM flight, than, the vending machines would not be necessary as they would take away some of the sales from the opened facilities.

Just a few toughts.

PS. TDC should be opened by 7:30AM and their booth ready with a smile and ready to greet for this first flight.

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8 jobeibi May 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

6. Trash cans in the parking lots. I saw a lot of water bottles strewn around the parking lot on Saturday. I started to pick them up, but couldn’t find a trash can to put them in.
7. Traffic signs on the trolley-ways through the parking lot. I was surprised to discover that I was not on a sidewalk. 🙂 Just a little warning that the path is used by airport trolleys would be helpful.

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9 Bernard May 25, 2010 at 10:20 am

I just wanted quickly to address foreign flights. Since we have extended the runway to accomodate the boeing 777 and Airbus 300, are we going to work with British Airways, Lufthansa, Airfrance, Canada Air etc….

Since the beaches and the weather is still good in the winter, that probably would opened a new waves of guests coming to this area…..Panama City Beaches where the only oil we have on our beaches is Sun-Tan Oil.

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10 neil May 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I like your comments Bernard. We live is England and have owed a property on the Beach for 7 years now and love it–we come 3 or 4 times per year. I like the idea of the new airport but it is currently too expensive for us to fly into. We fly from London to Atlanta and the drive 5 hours to PC–but it is worth it. The only thing that you got wrong was asking British airways—I am British through and through but those people at BA could all be without a job soon–they lost $800million last year and are now striking–BA may not be in business too much longer at this rate. Cant wait for our next visit in 5 weeks,

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11 Ray May 25, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Is there even a passport control and custom area to handle the international flights? Will there be a place to make currency exchanges and are any of the signage in multiple languages? This all will have to happen to be an international airport by defination, as in Atlanta.

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12 maggie May 26, 2010 at 1:06 am

I’m sure there must be a passport screening center. Even in the old airport we had our luggage checked through to Canada, even though it (and we) changed planes twice on the way home.

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13 jobeibi May 26, 2010 at 10:01 am

Ray, PFN had been designated as an International airport since 1992. If those things were required for international status, then I’m sure that the operations were carried over from the PFN site.

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14 Ray May 26, 2010 at 10:35 am

@ jobeibi, you are correct. However, international arrivals to PFN had already cleared immigration /custom at another gateway city to connect to Panama City since there were no direct or non stop flights prior to ECP. We are now courting international carriers to fly directly into the new ECP , which makes ECP the gateway city. This will require that all arrivals and departures will require to clear custom and immigration at this location. Or , did I miss something?

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15 dave May 28, 2010 at 9:03 pm

What happened to US Airways flying in here?

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