CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Images of thick black oil tarnishing the Florida panhandle's snow-white beaches aren't easy to erase. After the Deepwater Horizon spill, tourism tanked. Hotels and restaurants struggled. Nearly a year later, Senator Don Gaetz, who is sponsoring The Oil Spill Recovery Act, is now asking the entire state to help Northwest Florida get back on its feet.
Starting April 1st, all it'll take is one quick flight. Vision Airlines plans to offer non-stop flights starting at $89 one-way from Charlotte County Airport to Destin, FL. And travelers who book between January 18-23 can snag one-way tickets for just $49. You could spend that on a tank of gas.
"People don't listen until they see, and if you can see for $89 or $49, what they're saying, sure people will go for it, even if you go for a weekend," Susan Hahesy, who visits Punta Gorda, said.
The 30-seat flights will operate two days a week, Monday and Friday. Vision Airlines and Charlotte County Airport hope this will re-energize tourism as well as the job market in a city neglected by larger airlines.
"To bring tourism back to the level it was two years ago, or exceed that, you certainly need a way to get them here.," Vision Airlines Director of Sales and Marketing Clay Meek said. "We are very comfortable that we can fill up a 737 four times a week."
Charlotte County resident Steve Wazny sees the advantages compared to a 9-hour drive or even the current flight on major airlines. "You have to fly to Altanta and then fly down to Destin and the entire trip is so counterintuitive."
And people in Punta Gorda can already see themselves sunning on the Emerald Coast. "It's closer than Fort Myers airport, and being able to get there saves you a long drive," Wazny said. "Gas prices as it is, it's probably cheaper travel in the first place."
"Anything that stimulates the economy has got to be good," Hahesy said.
Tuesay in Destin, Governor Rick Scott will join Vision Airlines, Destin's Mayor and state and local representatives to announce the beginning of these flights.
Flight Schedule: Effective March 25, 2011
Charlotte County Airport - PGD; Northwest Florida Regional Airport - VPS
Monday: Depart VPS at 3:45 PM*/Arrive PGD at 4:55 PM... Depart PGD at 5:40 PM/Arrive VPS at 6:55 PM*
Friday: Depart VPS at 7:50 AM*/Arrive PGD at 9:00 AM... Depart PGD at 9:45 AM/Arrive VPS at 11:00 AM*
*Flight times are in Central Standard Time (CST)
For more information about Vision Airlines or to book a flight, visit www.visionairlines.com or call 1-877-FLY-A-JET.