Saturday, January 9, 2016

Naples Municipal Airport (KAPF) attracts big crowds in recent weeks

Private jets overflow into the commercial area of the runway as Naples Municipal Airport endures heavy holiday traffic December 28.




Jets lined up by the dozens at the Naples Municipal Airport during New Year's Weekend, causing delays in traffic and setting a near-record total in fuel sales. The airport sold more than 68,500 gallons of fuel on Sunday, the second-highest single-day total on record, said Sheila Dugan, the airport's deputy executive director.

The uptick in fuel sales was hailed as a promising sign of a recovering economy. The amount of takeoffs and landings in the last three months of 2015 increased 4.4 percent from the same period last year, according to the airport's numbers.

The increases coincide with tourism numbers that show the area is continuing its post-recession boom. The county collected more than $1.3 million in tourism taxes in November, according to the most recent data compiled by the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau. Tourism tax totals from 2015, even excluding December, are more than $2 million more than what was projected.

Mayor John Sorey said the economy is allowing private jet travel for those who can afford to avoid the hassles of a commercial hub. During his trip to Europe on the holiday break, Sorey said he went a week with a lost bag after a layover in New York.

"Air travel is no longer fun," Sorey said.

Overnight at the airport Sunday, Dugan said, there were roughly 100 aircraft. Many of them took off Sunday and Monday. Dugan said about 30 jets were lined up to take off at one point, which caused delays.

Dugan said it's difficult for the airport to monitor the makeup of the travelers, but Jack Wert, executive director of the CVB, said most of the county's tourists fly into Fort Myers.

Dugan likened the increase of airport traffic to the rest of the traffic increases the city sees during its tourism season.

"We're seasonal just like all the other service industries," Dugan said.

The last time the airport sold so much fuel in a single day was in February 2007, the same year commercial flights were indefinitely halted. In October, Executive Director Ted Soliday signed a commercial service contract with Elite Airways, but the flights are held up as the airport waits for the Transportation Security Administration to set up its services.

The airport had roughly 8,200 takeoffs and landings in December, down about 3 percent from last year. But there were more than 25,000 operations from October through the end of 2015.

The airport expects the heavy flight load to continue. In its 2015-16 budget, it projects a 3 percent increase in takeoffs and landings and a 4 percent increase in net revenue from fuel sales.

Story and photo gallery:  http://www.naplesnews.com

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