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Live Music, Art Exhibits, and Safety Makes Jacksonville International Airport a Frequent Flyer Destination

By Elizabeth R. Elstien
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Heading to the Northeast Florida/Southeast Georgia area?

Debbie Jones, Community Relations Administrator at Jacksonville International Airport (known as JAX on your flight itinerary), assures us, "Our airport offers customers a variety of shopping and dining options, free Wi-Fi, convenient charging stations in seating areas throughout the terminal, nationally recognized permanent and rotating art exhibits and live music every day."

Live music? Wow! She has me wishing I had a reason to fly to Jacksonville.

JAX is part of the larger Jacksonville Airport System, owned and managed by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, which also includes Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (CRG), Herlong Recreational Airport (HEG) and Cecil Airport (VQQ). Jones explains that the airport system locations are "strategically located throughout the Community".

Jacksonville accommodates a mix of business and leisure travelers all year, which means, Jones says, "we don't experience huge seasonal swings in passenger traffic". This continual flow of travelers has both legacy carriers we all know and smaller, low-cost carriers flying in and out of JAX, giving passengers a range of itinerary options when planning their next trip.

In 2011, New York Times Magazine named JAX as one of the cheapest airports to fly out of in the United States, speculating that the low cost of fares was a draw to tourists. Plus, the long-term parking options start at a very inexpensive $5 a day. If you fly often, not only do you get frequent flyer miles, but you can join the airport's Frequent Parker Rewards Program for extra perks.

Aside from price, the airport is known for its safety standards creating the national model for an in-line baggage screening system that also sorted to the various airlines. To honor this accomplishment keeping travel safer, in 2013 JAX was named Outstanding Airport Project of the Year by the Florida Department of Transportation. Safety and security, not just of the airport, but of the entire area, is important.

"Our community is not only where we live, but also it's who we are," Jones emphasizes. "We're proud to be part of Jacksonville and its surrounding communities." 


Allegiant Air, Silver Airways add new nonstop flights from Jacksonville

May 24, 2016
By Staff

Airlines begin service to 4 destinations this week

Two airlines will begin offering new nonstop routes this week from Jacksonville International Airport (JAX).

Allegiant Air announced Tuesday that it will start providing nonstop service from JAX to Columbus, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri and Asheville, North Carolina.

The first flight to Columbus Rickenbacker Airport will depart JAX at 2:47 p.m. Wednesday.

Then on Friday, the first service from JAX to Mid-America St. Louis Airport will depart at 9:30 a.m. and the first service to Asheville will depart at 2:28 p.m.

Silver Airways also announced Tuesday that it will begin its first nonstop service between JAX and Nassau Bahamas on Thursday.

Flights will depart from JAX at 3 p.m. on Thursdays and another will depart from JAX at 3:21 p.m. on Sundays. Service back to JAX from Nassau will depart at 12:30 p.m. on Sundays and 12:49 p.m. on Thursdays.

For more on flights from JAX, visit the airport's website (


Allegiant Air starts flights to three new cities this week

May 24, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Allegiant Air is starting its summer seasonal travel this week, with direct flights from Jacksonville to three new locations.

On Wednesday, Allegiant will start its new service to Columbus Rickenbacker Airport, with its first departure at 2:47 p.m.

Friday will have two new flights. At 9:20 a.m., service will start to Mid-America St. Louis Airport. At 2:28 p.m., service will begin to Asheville, North Carolina.

Allegiant has been rapidly adding service to Jacksonville, going from zero flights to nine in just over one year.

Allegiant has said that Jacksonville is an ideal city for its growing market. Not only is Jacksonville underserved for flights, but it’s an attractive city that entices travelers.

“It’s an Allegiant-sized city,” he said. “With most of our destinations, like Las Vegas, people are flying into Las Vegas,” said Lukas Johnson, senior vice president of planning, earlier this month.” With Jacksonville, people are flying both ways…. For us, Jacksonville is a perfect city.”

It's not the only new flights this week. Silver Airways is starting its direct flights to Nassau, Bahamas from Jacksonville on Thursday.


TSA security lines are long — but at least they're shorter in Jacksonville

May 18, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Late last week, a two-minute video went viral, showing a TSA line that snaked through the entire Chicago Midway airport.

The video, viewed more than 2 million times, highlights the problem that travelers are experiencing ahead of the busy travel months: TSA is understaffed, funding isn’t in place to hire more people and travelers still can’t seem to figure out to take shoes and belts off before they get to the scanner.

But Jacksonville, luckily, is spared some of the problems the nation is facing, said TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz.

“The wait times are not an issue in Jacksonville,” Koshetz told the Business Journal. “Jacksonville has one large checkpoint, which is a very efficient format there. Some have many different checkpoints which require having to spread personnel out. The one checkpoint layout in Jacksonville is very efficient.”

Although Koshetz couldn’t provide employment figures for Jacksonville before publication, national TSA employment is down 12 percent from 47,000 employees in 2013 to 42,000 today. Meanwhile, air travel has increased 15 percent.

To combat this discrepancy, TSA has pledged to hire 6,000 new workers but needs emergency funding to do so. There’s a proposal to shift $34 million from Homeland Security to hire 800 workers for next year, but that doesn’t solve the problem for the busy summer travel season, nor does it solve the shortage long-term.

On top of this, travelers keep forgetting to leave their loaded firearms at home. In May alone, 109 loaded firearms were discovered by TSA.

Koshetz said if travelers want to reduce their wait — in Jacksonville and other airports — they should remember to unpack their bags before repacking, checking for prohibited items, including ammunition.

There’s also the option of signing up for Pre-check, which requires paying a fee and getting checked at a separate location before your trip, and then going through a specialized fast-pass lane. So far, only 2.6 million travelers have signed up for Pre-check, Koshetz said.

But even in an easier airport like Jacksonville, it’s recommended to get there two to three hours before your flight, especially in busier airports.

“Even in Jacksonville, you don’t want to take a chance and arrive at the same time as a busload of cruise passengers,” he said. “You generally expect to spend less time getting through security in Jacksonville, with it being a more compact airport, but it’s still advisable to not take any chances.”


Advanced Baggage Screening At JIA Led Nation After 9/11

By Michael Bernos

In honor of our 75th anniversary, we’re sharing historic, innovative projects that we’re proud of and have achieved some of our generation’s most enduring legacies.

In response to the airport security breaches that led to the fateful events of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which was signed into law on November 19, 2001. This act is most recognized for creating the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

As a result of that legislation, TSA turned to the nation’s airports to develop advancements in security technology and processes. In response to the challenge, Jacksonville International Airport (JIA) pioneered one of the first integrated Explosive Detection Systems (EDS) in the nation to screen all checked luggage for weapons and other harmful chemicals, leading to a safer travel experience for passengers across the US.

“Our mandate after 9/11 was to go beyond lobby screening,” said Bob Molle, Director of Planning and Development at JIA. “As s a result, we became the national prototype for an in-line baggage screening system.”

In order to uphold the law’s requirements, JIA embarked on a program that integrated certified EDS machines into the hold baggage screening and baggage handling system. These machines would screen all checked baggage throughout the outbound baggage handling conveyor and sortation system. Partnering with JIA, RS&H began research by touring major airports in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Manchester, and Detroit, while receiving input from subconsultants Stantec and Ross & Baruzzini.

“With RS&H’s help, we were pioneers that not only provided an automated screening function but also sorted the bags to each individual airlines, which allows us to decentralize the system and operate more efficiently,” said Molle. “We were the first to implement such a system in 2003 and to people checking bags then, they never saw the difference.”

According to Dan Clayton, RS&H Vice President and Project Manager, JIA’s proposed system design was selected because it was very proactive.

“TSA used it as a pilot program to establish the newly required screening protocols,” said Clayton, adding, “and other U.S. airports quickly followed suit.”

Some of the unique elements of the design were:

1. It exceeded TSA and JAA baggage screening standards and procedural requirements while maintaining efficiency of passenger and baggage processing.

2. Conveyor layout would be failsafe to ensure that any errors in bag identification resulted in rescreening or threat resolution room delivery.

3. A maximum of 10-minute baggage delivery time for bags that could be cleared by machine from check-in to baggage make-up room. Bags that were screened and cleared were to be separated immediately from the screening area and returned to the baggage make-up rooms.

Molle said JIA is now on its third generation baggage screening system, recently implementing new EDS equipment. Still regarded as one of the most advanced in the country, JIA’s system includes a sophisticated multiple air carrier sortation conveyor. The system receives all airline checked luggage, either from the ticket counter or curb front, merges the bags into a single EDS screening room, circulates them through the screening process, and returns the bags to the respective carriers.

Due to the project’s impact and innovations, it was honored by the Florida Department of Transportation as the Outstanding Airport Project of the Year in 2003.

Since that time, RS&H’s baggage screening system designs have made an impact on terminals across the nation with industry-changing EDS, baggage screening, and baggage handling systems with the ultimate goal of safety and security for travelers. 


Why Air Canada moved up its Jacksonville flight by three weeks

May 6, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Just three weeks after Air Canada announced it would fly between Toronto and Jacksonville, the Canadian airline made another announcement.

Instead of May 21, the initial start date for service, Air Canada decided it would start flights May 7.

The catalyst for changing the date, which is highly unusual for air carrier: The Players Championship.

“It is unusual,” said Lisa Pierce, senior director of U.S. sales and market development for Air Canada, in an interview with the Business Journal.

Pierce said that when the flight was announced, it was suggested that they move the service up a few weeks to accommodate passengers who would be interested in attending the tournament.

"Many Canadians love golf almost as much as going to Florida, so we are very pleased to adjust our schedule to accommodate fans attending The Players,” said Pierce at the time of the decision, back in December.

But it’s not easy to just reschedule a flight, which is why many times it doesn’t happen.

Pierce said the biggest constraint to setting up a route and then moving the date is making sure the aircraft is available. Then, it’s setting up the crew pairings well in advance.

Next, the passenger demand has to be enough to justify the expense. Finally, space has to be available at both airports for the earlier time frame.

But all of that has come together, Pierce said, and made the earlier start date worthwhile.

Although she didn’t know exactly how many customers have booked on each plane, she did say that the 72-seat capacity flights are filling up.

Starting the service between Jacksonville and Toronto made sense for the airline, Pierce said, as Jacksonville is an ideal market because it has both leisure and business components.

“There are a lot of headquarters down there,” she said. “There are Canadian businesses looking to do business in Florida, and vice versa. There’s a commitment to the Florida region. And since we’re already servicing other cities in the state, it made sense to add Jacksonville.”

Meanwhile, Toronto is one of Air Canada’s biggest hubs and an international gateway to the country. The airline even offers a free stopover in Toronto up to 7 days, as part of a way to spur economic development in the city.

But Pierce emphasized that part of Air Canada’s appeal is its availability to do what it did with Jacksonville: be flexible and fit the needs of the customers, including servicing a golf tournament.

“Air Canada is growing, but we are nimble,” she said. “We are able to change our schedule when there is a commercial request made. That’s something that sets us apart from the competition.”


Air Canada to offer nonstop flights to Toronto out of Jacksonville International Airport

Thu, May 5, 2016
By Drew Dixon

Air Canada is the latest passenger carrier to offer nonstop service out of Jacksonville International Airport.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority announced Thursday that Air Canada will begin nonstop flights from JIA to Toronto, Canada on Saturday, a JIA news release said. The first inbound flight from Canada arrives at JIA about 11:40 a.m. Saturday while the first departing flight will take off from JIA to the “YYZ” airport in Toronto about 12:15 p.m. Saturday.


"A perfect city:" Why Allegiant Air took a bet on Jacksonville

May 3, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Allegiant Air will admit that launching flights to and from Jacksonville was a bit of an experiment for the Las Vegas airline.

When Jacksonville got connections to Pittsburgh a year ago, it was the first time the ultra-low cost airline connected two medium-sized cities, rather than its bread-and-butter formula of connecting small cities to vacation destinations.

“It was a bit of an experiment,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant’s senior vice president of planning, who spoke to the Business Journal. “But it was a success and it worked.”

Over the past year, Jacksonville has gone from having no flights from Allegiant Airline to nine, and the airline continues to be bullish on the First Coast.

After announcing new summer flights to destinations like Asheville and St. Louis, the airline is looking at Jacksonville as one of its major growth markets, possibly even basing planes and crews out of Northeast Florida.

Allegiant was looking for a new way to grow when it announced it would start flying direct to Jacksonville, Johnson said.

“Nobody else was flying medium-to-medium,” he said. “And we saw it as where the next level of growth for us was. We’ve changed and evolved our model where it’s not just about taking people in tiny cities to large destinations, it’s about going into any unserved market with pent-up demand.”

In the underserved markets, one-way fares can be up to $200-$300, always connecting to the major airline hubs before reaching the final destination. But Johnson said when they started flying to those cities, rates would drop 50 to 75 percent.

And for trying out this new model, Jacksonville was ideal: Not only did it have the beach and leisure aspects Allegiant normally looks for in a destination city, but it had growth potential — something that Allegiant has validated in naming nine more First Coast routes over the year.

To bet on a new business model using Jacksonville as a guinea pig might be surprising to those that wouldn’t guess Jacksonville would be at the forefront, but Johnson said it was a case of the risk not outweighing the reward.

“This was worth trying to expand our market size,” he said. “Jacksonville is a larger city. It’s not about two routes, or nine, it’s about 20 routes potentially. It has the potential to get up there.”

Johnson said the key to that growth is growing and creating a market share that didn’t necessarily exist before. By connecting Jacksonville to a city like New Orleans, Allegiant isn’t stealing passengers from other airlines, it’s targeting new passengers who don’t normally fly.

“We’re creating passengers who wouldn’t have taken that $300 flight,” he said. “But when a $300 flight from Jacksonville to New Orleans drops to $50, how many more people start to go?”

Johnson is confident that Allegiant — and its major competitors Spirit and Frontier — will be able to grow the market for some time, with room for all three.

“By the end of the decade, at our current growth rate, we’ll be close to 10 percent of the market,” he said.

Combined, the three ultra-low-cost airlines have had 14 percent annual growth since the recession, he said. The legacy airlines have grown one-tenth of a percent in that time frame. Southwest and Jet Blue have grown about 4 percent.

Johnson added that when you look at Europe, Ryanair — the leading low-cost airline — has become the largest domestic carrier, becoming a low-cost Southwest for the European set.

While Johnson said Allegiant doesn’t necessarily want to copycat what Ryanair has done, the company also has plans for big growth.

In the meantime, the next step for Jacksonville could be more flights from Allegiant, or even basing crews and planes out of the city. Because Allegiant’s cost-saving business model calls for basing its equipment and employees out of cities it flies to and ends the day’s routes in, that brings an economic boost and job growth to those base cities.

“We added flights to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Asheville in the last 12 months,” he said. “All three were clamoring to be a base. It means job growth, hiring people, getting new routes, more utility and lowering fares. Jacksonville isn’t quite there, but it shares a lot of the qualities.”

Johnson said the city is too small for its major competitors, who also connect to large cities like the legacies do, which is an opportunity for Allegiant.

“It’s an Allegiant-sized city,” he said. “With most of our destinations, like Las Vegas, people are flying into Las Vegas. With Jacksonville, people are flying both ways…. For us, Jacksonville is a perfect city.”


JIA adds new direct flights with Allegiant

April 14, 2016
Shelby Danielsen, WTLV

The Jacksonville International Airport launched its first direct flight to New Orleans through Allegiant Airlines on Thursday. The flight is one of nine new direct flights coming to JIA through the discount airline.

Friday morning JIA will add two more flights through Allegiant, one to Memphis, Tennessee and one to Richmond, Virginia.

Right now, Allegiant already offers year-round direct flights to Cincinnati and Pittsburg from JIA, but by the end of the summer it will add another year-round direct flight to Indianapolis and seasonal flights to Columbus, Asheville, and St. Louis. 

To kick off the inaugural New Orleans flight on Thursday cooks were brought in to bake treats for passengers and hand out free cookie and coffee. 

Once the plane took off, it backed up between two fire trucks and water canons sprayed over the airplane as it departed. 

“The coolest part is that it’s a-la-carte, you just pay for what you need, and that was cool for me," said passenger Freddie Zorang. "The other thing I really enjoy is that I get a straight flight from Jacksonville to New Orleans. It’s quick, I can hop on over there, see my friends, and so that’s pretty much what I’m into.”

Zorang says there is a big population of "Louisianans" in Jacksonville following Hurricane Katrina. He and his family is a prime example. They moved to Jacksonville after the hurricane and now frequently go back to visit. 

Allegiant received some scrutiny after it experienced long wait times and mechanical problems causing some planes to be diverted, but JIA says they are supportive of the airline and have received positive feedback from the public. 


Up In The Air: Annual Wings ‘n’ Wheels Flight Festival

March 30, 2016
Liza Mitchell

Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport
Event Type:Family,Food Drink Events,Free,Outdoor
Event: Wings ’n’ Wheels

Location: Craig Airport, 855 St. Johns Bluff Road N.
Date: April 23, 10am-4pm
Tickets: Free
Contact: or

JAXEX is soaring to new heights with its signature event showcasing various elements in transportation from the street to the sky. Wings ‘n’ Wheels is held from 10am to 4pm April 23 at Craig Airport. The event features static aircraft displays, classic car show, live entertainment, a kid’s zone, plane rides, and airport tours. Aircraft displays include everything from the larger business jets to turbo props and vintage aircraft. Admission and parking are free.

JAXEX Manager Tiffany Gillem says the open house event is staged every couple of years to promote the use and value of the airport to the community as well as provide opportunities for youth to get involved in general aviation. Representatives will be on hand from several area flight schools, including Holiday Aviation ,Sterling Flight Training and Atlantic Aviation, who will provide discovery flights to downtown and back. Cost is $35 for a 30-minute ride. The flight offers a panoramic view of the airport’s 1,342 acres, including two paved runways and its own air traffic control tower.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to really get to know the airport, the businesses that make up Jax Ex, and the service we provide. It’s a family-fun atmosphere working with several of our tenants and community partners to put on the event,” says Gillem. “There will be airport tours to get some behind-the-scenes perspective and viewing the facilities in a way that they would not normally see.” Gillem says Jax Ex has partnered with the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) to put together the classic car show. The Jacksonville Fire Department will sponsor the kid’s zone and will feature fire safety tips, crash trucks on display, activities, and a gaming truck for older kids. “There is something for everybody here,” she says.

In 2012, JAXEX commemorated the 10th year of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) operating as its own authority. The inaugural Wings ‘n’ Wheels event was co-hosted in 2010 by JAXEX and Chapter 193 of the EAA. That event drew approximately 4,000 people.

JAXEX was originally named after Jacksonville native James Craig, a World War II naval aviator who lost his life aboard the USS Pennsylvania during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The airport previously served as a joint civil and military airport that housed an Army Aviation Support facility and National Guard helicopter units before they were relocated to Cecil Field. The first U.S. Navy Blue Angels air show was staged at JAXEX on June 15, 1946. Today, JAXEX handles approximately 400-500 aircraft operations daily and maintains over 300 single- and multi-engine personal aircraft and small commuter planes.

For more information about Wings ‘n’ Wheels, visit


JAA sees medical tourism as part of long-term strategy

Mar 28, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is looking to be a partner in Jacksonville’s medical tourism industry, making it a unique priority in its adopted five-year strategic plan.

During the review and adoption of the plan at its Monday board meeting, the aviation authority included adding promotion of medical tourism to its customer service strategy.

About five years ago, the JAA did look into partnering with hospitals, but only saw some interest from Mayo Clinic. Now, with the medical tourism industry more developed, especially with patients coming in from South and Central America, JAA is looking to be a champion for that sector of travel.

“The next step is to go back to the medical community,” said Michael Stewart, spokesman for the JAA, “and see what more we can do to enhance our service to the medical community.”

That means bringing in patients, mostly from Miami flying in on American Airlines’ jet service. It also means helping the medical supply chain, shipping in any supplies supporting hospitals, Stewart said.

JAA championing medical tourism is something other organizations could get behind.

“We would be interested in partnering with JAA, in finding other locations to target and where our patients are coming from,” said Patty Jimenez, leisure communications specialist for Visit Jacksonville, which has its own medical tourism program. “It would only help us grow. We would partner with anyone who wants to partner with us.”

Not only is the JAA looking to support medical tourism, but to do more to asses how it can service the business community as a whole.

The airport will develop metrics to survey the business community specifically not just on its customer service, but what it can do to spur economic development and meet the needs of businesses.

Both initiatives were pushed for by board member Teresa Davlantes, secretary of the board.

“We need to engage in the conversation,” she told the Business Journal following the board meeting. “There’s an increase in willingness of people to travel for medical procedures, even domestically, and we need to do more to promote medical tourism. We have quality providers and we can help capitalize on that.”

The JAA’s role will be to support the actual travel part.

“The challenge is how to get them here,” she said. “We’ll be assessing the needs and meeting those needs.”

In addition to medical tourism and servicing business, JAA included in its strategic plan improving service through more internet access and adding non-stop destinations over the next five years.

That includes flying internationally, although success in that arena could be fairly limited.

“Our targets for international flights will the Caribbean and Central America,” said CEO Steve Grossman. “Given the growth and activities in Jacksonville, we’re pursuing opportunities in Europe, but on that we’re less optimistic. And if you want to fly to Asia, you should plan to change planes in Atlanta.”


Jacksonville airport increasing security following Belgium terrorist attacks

Mar 23, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

In the wake of the terrorist attack at a major airport in Brussels, Belgium, Jacksonville International Airport said it will be increasing the visibility of law enforcement to enhance safety.
While the airport couldn’t go into specifics of its tactical response, spokeswoman Debbie Jones said it would have more law enforcement officers walking through the terminals for an undisclosed period of time, that will be “very visible.”
TSA and Jacksonville International Airport are beefing up security following terrorist attacks at an airport in Belgium.

“We have multiple layers of security,” Jones said. “There are things you can see, like officers, and things you can’t. We’re constantly training for a wide variety of situations.”

Jones said as recently as October, the airport conducted an active shooter drill to prepare for a situation where there would be a direct attack. She added that the aviation authority also works to stay in touch with the FBI, joint terrorism task force and works with other law enforcement as well.

The Transportation Security Administration is also increasing additional security measures, including procedures to identify any suspicious travel, particularly from Belgium, given the attack.

“As a precautionary measure, TSA is deploying additional security to major city airports in the United States, and at various rail and transit stations around the country,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, in a statement. “TSA is also working closely with state and local law enforcement, airport and transit authorities, and the aviation industry in order to augment that security.”

Jones reminded that, as far as the public is concerned, the most important thing is to be vigilant.

“We encourage travelers to be aware of their surroundings,” she said. “If you see something, say something to an officer or an employee, especially if you see something suspicious.”


Allegiant's new flights could be just the beginning for its presence in Jacksonville

Mar 8, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Thirteen months ago, Allegiant started just two direct flights to Jacksonville — from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Tuesday, the ultra-low cost airline out of Las Vegas announced its ninth flight to Northeast Florida, a move that could be a tipping point to Jacksonville International Airport becoming a more crucial part of the airline's network.

“The next step with them is we become a base,” said Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman in an exclusive interview with the Business Journal ahead of the announcement.

The airline added Indianapolis; Asheville, North Carolina; St. Louis via Belleville, Illinois; and Columbus, Ohio to its existing flights. In addition to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the company flies from Jacksonville to Richmond, Virginia; New Orleans, Louisiana and Memphis, Tennessee.

Because Allegiant's cost-saving business model is to have pilots and crew end in their home city — so they don't have to pay hotel costs of having them stay somewhere else overnight — a plane will often finish its travel for the day in a base city. With enough flights in and out of Jacksonville, it could soon be one of those cities, Grossman said.

While Allegiant wouldn't confirm if would start basing aircraft in Northeast Florida, it is a possibility, said spokeswoman Stephanie Pilecki. Jacksonville is one of the airline's destination cities, and aircraft are usually based out of a destination so they can more easily fly.

While other airlines focus on a hub model or cities of concentration, Allegiant is doing something different, flying to medium-sized markets largely ignored. Pilecki said the airline is happy to be, and often is, the only airline flying a certain route. The company also connects those markets to major tourism destinations — of which it includes Jacksonville.

Grossman said he believes Allegiant will continue to grow and add more flights, as long as it is making the money it wants and has the community supporting it.

Allegiant's quick expansion into Jacksonville has already boded well for the airport.

Last year was the airport's best year, Grossman said, bolstered significantly by Allegiant: Just adding their new flights last year grew the airport by 1 percent.

“They've given us incremental growth,” he said. “What's interesting about Allegiant is they've broken the mold.”

Jacksonville International Airport gets big win in top airport awards

Mar 3, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Jacksonville International Airport is the second place airport in North America, as ranked by the Airports Council International in its 2015 Airport Service Quality Awards.

The survey, the benchmark of airport excellence, surveys about a half million passengers at over 300 airports across more than 80 countries.

Jacksonville is one of the top airports for service quality in the country.

While Indianapolis took the top prize, Jacksonville tied for second place, along with Tampa, Grand Rapids, Dallas Lovefield and Ottawa.

“It's great to see our Jacksonville International Airport continue to achieve national recognition," said Mayor Lenny Curry, in a statement. “This latest ranking is a testament to the outstanding customer service they provide, demonstrating our city's commitment to business and customer friendly practices."

Third place airports in the continent were Sacramento, Austin, Detroit, San Antonio and Toronto Billy Bishop.

The recognition marks the fourth year in a row Jacksonville was in the top five airports in North America.

“We are thrilled to receive such high honor for our international airport and the Jacksonville community,” said JAA Chairman Ray Alfred, in a statement. “This award is a testament to the excellent customer service our team delivers daily to our residents and visitors traveling through our airport.”

Cuba flights could be coming to Jacksonville

Mar 3, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Cuba flights could come to Jacksonville — Fort Lauderdale-based airline Silver Airways has applied to routes to Cuba from five Florida cities, including out of Jacksonville International Airport.

The airline applied for routes out of Key West, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and Fort Myers/Naples to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which opened applications Feb. 16.

Silver applied for routes to all 10 available Cuban cities, something that it doesn't expect from the other applicants.

“What we've seen so far is we're likely the only airline serving all 10 cities available in Cuba,” said Silver spokeswoman Misty Pinson. “We're really committed to the Cuban-American community and want to provide that bridge between Florida and Cuba.”

She said that when applying, Silver wanted to focus on the Cuban-American population that is most interested in routes: Two-thirds of Cuban-Americans live in Florida.

The airline applied for two weekly frequencies from Jacksonville to Havana, with the opportunity to connect to Tampa.

“We're very committed to Jacksonville,” Pinson said. “It's another logical step to continue that relationship with the local community and the airport there.”

For its part, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority said it's looking forward to the opportunity to have a flight to Cuba.

“We're excited,” said spokeswoman Debbie Jones, “and we'll do what we can to support them.”

Pricing for the flights has not yet been determined. Pinson said the next step will be for the DOT to review applications and award the flights.

Although she wasn't sure when that would be, she said Silver is expecting to start flights by the end of the year.

“We've really been looking forward to this for quite some time now,” she said, “and we're really looking forward to receiving word from the Department of Transportation.”


New infrastructure approved at Cecil Airport

Feb 22, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority board of directors approved infrastructure improvements for Cecil Airport on Monday, a move that the board hopes will spur development.

About $1.25 million in state and local funding will go to installing utilities in two phases on the east side of the Cecil Airport complex — the area that will be used for commercial space operations, said Todd Lindner, senior manager for aviation planning and development at the JAA.

The first phase will include construction for 2,900 linear feet of utilities, including electric, water, sewer and fiber infrastructure. The first phase will also include planning and design for the second phase, which will be construction of an additional 5,750 feet of infrastructure improvements.

The project is necessary for growing the airport, Lindner said.

“On the east side of Cecil, there are great areas to develop,” he said. “There is a lot of acreage over there that is developable, but we don't have utilities over there. To have development we have to have utilities.”

The bill for the project will be split 80-20 between the Florida Department of Transportation and JAA. FDOT is giving a $1 million grant in intermodal funds, and JAA is using $250,000 in the capital budget with money for a hangar project that is no longer moving forward.

The board approved the project and acceptance of the grant, which means the utility improvements will now move ahead. While he wasn't sure on the exact timeline, Lindner said the project will be started in the next three months and construction will go to bid. Doing so means more tenants for Cecil.
“If we're going to have a tenant over there, we have to have utilities,” he said. “The primary purpose of this is to get utilities down to an area that is designated for commercial space operations. That's why we're doing this, to get utilities there for everybody.”


JAA's trip to Puerto Rico could pay off big for Jacksonville travelers

Feb 23, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Members of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority marketing department went to the Routes Americas conference in Puerto Rico last week to meet with airlines — and potentially court new ones.

The annual conference is one that the JAA attends every year, saidBarbara Halverstadt, director of marketing. In addition to corporate visits, she said the JAA attends conferences to grow service from Jacksonville, maintain relationships and keep up conversations between airlines it's courting.

Halverstadt said she had meetings with domestic and international airlines, as well as with other airports, to talk about strategies and what might be a good opportunity.

Going to the conferences has paid off: When Jacksonville had a flight to Denver with Frontier Airlines, the conversations that brought that flight started at a conference in Dubai.

The nature of the conferences provide a platform where the Aviation Authority can meet with several parties all in one day and allows for several different types of meetings to take place.

“It gives us the opportunity to talk our current carriers and talk with carriers we have on our radar,” Halverstadt said. “It also gives us the opportunity to see with some and help them become more familiar with our area and we sell the region.”

Having those types of conversations can be invaluable, she said. At one of these conferences, she had a meeting with an airline that was so unfamiliar with Florida, it asked if Jacksonville had a beach.

“Sometimes they're not aware where we are and they're not aware we're a huge business market,” she said. “They think of Florida as Disney or Miami.”

But Jacksonville has significant benefits over the rest of Florida when it comes to travel: Its median age is 28, making it atypical of the usual retirement market and travel is less seasonal.

And of course, the airport has goals: With the conference having taken place in San Juan, she said it was of particular interest to perhaps gain that route back.

By attending this conference, Halverstadt said the airport is setting up the foundation for new flights in a more comfortable setting.

“We can enlighten them about the region with a different view than sitting in a corporate office,” she said. “We can have meetings that last 20 to 40 minutes on different aspects. We can have introduction meetings or meetings with carriers we're courting. But these take time. It took four years to have Allegiant come to Jacksonville, and they're doing very well now.”


Jacksonville not getting flights to Cuba — yet

Feb 23, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

With the announcement that U.S. airlines can begin applying for flight routes to Cuba, Florida airports are in an ideal position to get some of that business.

But for Jacksonville International Airport — and other airports, for that matter — it's up to the airlines who apply to the federal government for the routes to decide if Northeast Florida will be in on the action.

With last week's announcement, Jacksonville Aviation AuthorityDirector of Marketing Barbara Haverstadt said it's a little early to know which airlines will be awarded flights and between which airports.

That being said, JIA has made efforts to put itself in the running.

“We're always talking to any airline that will listen,” Halverstadt said. “As with any new service, we're trying to build service to Jacksonville as much as we can.”

With its position as a hot spot for business and tourism, Cuba is of particular interest to the Aviation Authority.

“Cuba is an interest to many people,” Halverstadt said. “I can't comment on whether any airlines are having discussions with us, but it's certainly something that's of interest to a lot of folks.”


JAA CEO and Sen. Bill Nelson meet to discuss drone regulations at airports

Feb 9, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Sen. Bill Nelson met with several airport officials — including Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman — to discuss the importance of drone regulation, especially when it comes to airport safety.

Sen. Bill Nelson is looking to ramp up federal regulations on drones.

“A drone flying too close to an airport is an accident waiting to happen," Nelson said on Friday after meeting with leaders from statewide airports. "I’ve asked the FAA to increase its efforts to research and test the various technologies being developed to prevent a drone from flying into a sensitive area such as an airport. When it comes to getting these technologies installed at our nation’s airports, time is of the essence.”

Grossman told the Business Journal that Nelson's meeting was to assess what can be done to help airports with the enforcement of regulations on drone technology.

“He wanted to get our opinions of what was going on at airports and how we view the situation,” Grossman said. “He's talking about the need for potential regulations. These things are being sold in the millions and they're out there, but there really isn't much regulation with any teeth in it.”

Those two issues — the prevalence of drones and the question of how to enforce regulations — are some of the big challenges airports are facing, Grossman said.

In fact some airports, like Miami, are passing their own regulations on where drones can and can't be flown in regards to the airport, and are assigning penalties if an unmanned aerial system is being flown in that area.

While that's a possibility in Jacksonville, Grossman said so far it hasn't been necessary. Right now, the rules say that a drone can't be flown within five miles of Jacksonville International Airport or within three miles of Jacksonville's other three airports. But the issue comes with enforcing that and catching up with the technology.

“It could happen if the problem rears its ugly head here,” he said. 'We have not had many incidents at all with drones endangering the area within airports, or at least nothing that can be verified. So if there's not federal action taken or just some state action taken, the regulations will have no meaning and no penalty. If we see drones start to encroach, we might recommend to the city an ordinance be passed just to give JSO authority to do something if they find anything.”

But Grossman said a more cohesive plan — including what Sen. Nelson is trying to bring together — would be more effective.

“We don't want to see a hodgepodge of local regulations,” he said. “Through our industrial associations, we're working with the federal government and state Legislature. We don't want to see individual laws in every city, though.”


New baggage belt helps security at JAX

January 29, 2016
By Bakari Savage - Reporter

A new baggage belt system is helping the Transportation Security Administration administer safety at Jacksonville International Airport.

The main purpose of the new baggage screening system is mainly to check for weapons.

The process of traveling with a weapon starts at the ticket counter where you should declare having the item, before taking your luggage to the bag drop.

The wait times to get through security can be long sometimes because of additional safety checks and this is why it is advised to arrive at the airport well within the recommended time.

“I got here today at like an hour and a half before because I didn't want to miss my flight back to Houston,” said Gay Holt, a traveler at JAX.

Another passenger Mike Riccio said, “I usually try to get there between an hour and two hours.”

With more than two million passengers going through security at JAX last year, almost a ton of weapons were taken, of which 25 were guns.

According to airport officials most of the time it’s because passengers forgot what was in their bag and that’s why you’re asked to declare weapons at check-in.

A $19 million upgraded baggage belt system is helping to make sure weapons don’t slip through.

On the other side of ticketing your luggage is put on the conveyor belt, then goes into the system and into a room where the screening takes place. If everything is OK, your luggage then goes straight to your flight.

JAX Spokesperson Debbie Jones explained what happens if the luggage is not deemed OK.

“The bags get directed to another location. That's where the TSA officers will physically screen the bags to ensure the alarm is resolved,” Jones said. “Once that's done the bag is scanned again and then they're directed back to the carousel.”

Jones said the passenger will know if their bag made it to that screening room because a TSA worker will leave a note in the bag. But, if it’s a serious issue, there is a possibility you could miss your flight.

"The delay comes when people who try to carry weapons through with their carry-ons. That's when there can be a significant delay to other passengers," Jones said. “Because that passenger will have to have a meeting with TSA and law enforcement.” 

News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith said that’s because once the item is found, TSA works with local law enforcement to first check if the weapon is stolen.

Once everything is sorted out, then you will be able to continue with your trip. A rule of thumb to avoid any unnecessary delays is to check your bags before you pack.


Here's how Jacksonville airport is going more international

Jan 27, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

In a move to enhance service and improve the experience of any international customers, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is supplying tenants and travelers free interpreting services.

The authority is partnering with Language Line, an over-the-phone translation company that has interpreters for 200 languages on staff 24/7.

In the past, when a traveler would come to Jacksonville International Airport and they weren't proficient in English, the Aviation Authority would use a reference sheet that consisted of staff members and volunteers who might speak other languages. But that system was inefficient, said spokeswoman Debbie Jones, as sometimes a person on the list would not be working when needed, not to mention they couldn't represent even close to the languages a service could.

So although the airport doesn't (see) non-English speaking customers too often, Jones said they wanted to have a solution that was consistent and would enhance service.

“It's not something new we're providing,” she said, “but this is a great enhancement over what we used to have.”

Now, tenants are provided with a sheet that has hundreds of languages represented, all saying the same phrase. When a non-English speaking guest comes, the tenant can show them the sheet, which says the phrase in their native tongue: “Point to your language. An interpreter will be called. The interpreter is provided at no cost to you.”

When the guest points to their language, the tenant can then call the operations department of the airport, who will in turn call Language Line. The customer, tenant and interpreter can then speak in a three-way phone call.

While the service is free to tenants and customers, Jones said the JAA purchased 100 minutes of the service — she said there aren't enough international customers to justify a full subscription. The JAA secured a flat rate of 73 cents per minute, meaning its cost for its full 100 minutes will be just $73.

“We're making sure all our customers have accessibility,” she said. “If you're a non-English speaker, we want to make sure as an airport that we provide that, whether we use it once a year or 25 times a year. It's an enhancement to our last system, which was not reliable or feasible.”

She said over the last few years, needs for translation services have gone up slightly. That number could increase as JIA adds Air Canada to its roster. So far, tenants have been very receptive to the program, which has already been dispersed to them and is now available to guests.

“It's greater coverage, greater access and a much greater field of languages,” Jones said. “It's about accessibility. We're ensuring customers are able to communicate.”


Jacksonville gets direct flight to New Orleans, plus other new destinations

Jan 12, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Jacksonville residents can get ready to let the good times roll.

The Allegiant Travel Co. is launching three new direct flights to and from Jacksonville International Airport in April — including direct flights to New Orleans.

The new flights, which will also include Richmond, Virginia, and Memphis, Tennessee, are in addition to Allegiant's service to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which started in February last year.

New Orleans flights will be offered starting April 14, and the two other flights will begin April 15.

To celebrate the new flights, the company is offering a special introductory price on Jan. 12 and 13, where each one-way flight costs $39. Following the introductory deal, the airline's average cost for a one-way ticket is about $79.

Allegiant, an ultra-low-cost airline based in Las Vegas, focuses on providing leisure travel to underserved markets. When the airline started flights to Jacksonville last year, it told the Business Journal it did so because of Jacksonville's opportunity as an affordable vacation spot for people who would have to drive if it weren't for Allegiant's cost-savvy flight options.

With the addition of the new flights, Allegiant is looking to build on that.

“We have an analyst team constantly evaluating travel patterns and new route opportunities,” said Stephanie Pilecki, public relations specialist for Allegiant. “We had demand for those flights to New Orleans, Memphis and Richmond, and we took the opportunity to fill that demand. With the economic climate as good as it is, we decided to launch them starting in spring.”

Flights will be offered year-round, with two flights a day twice weekly. New Orleans flights will take place Thursdays and Sundays, while travelers can fly to Richmond or Memphis on Fridays and Mondays.

With the new service, Pilecki said the company estimates it will be responsible for bringing 50,000 new visitors to the First Coast.

And if the services are successful, she said the company could look at adding more locations accessible from Jacksonville.

“We will definitely focus on our new route announcements to make them as successful as possible,” she said. “And if they are, we will look into expansion. The key to looking at new opportunities is making these new flights super successful.”

Jensen covers logistics, trade manufacturing and defense.


Allegiant adding three nonstop flights to and from Jacksonville

Tue, Jan 12, 2016
By Roger Bull

Allegiant Air is adding three new flights from Jacksonville. Starting in April, the airline will begin nonstop flights between Jacksonville International Airport and New Orleans, Memphis and Richmond, Va.

The discount airline has its flights on limited days. Its only current flights in and out of JIA are Pittsburgh on Monday and Friday and Cincinnati on Sunday and Thursday.

Similarly, flights to Memphis and Richmond will be on Monday and Friday, while New Orleans’ flights will be Sunday and Thursday

The airline advertises flights starting at $39, but one local travel agent said that figure can quickly rise.

“They advertise one fare, but they charge you for everything,” said Sandy Harbison of Avondale Travel. “They charge you for a checked bag, a carry-on, you pay for your seat assignment. If you haven’t printed your boarding pass at home, you have to pay for that at the airport.

“There’s even an extra charge if you add another bag after you first booked your flight.”

Harbison said she’s never flown Allegiant, but has booked it for customers who have been satisfied with it.

JIA currently has no nonstop flights to and from New Orleans, Memphis or Richmond.

“New Orleans is very significant,” Harbison said. “We have a lot of business that goes back and forth. Southwest used to have a flight, Continental used to have one.”

Passengers now have to go through Atlanta or Houston to get to New Orleans.

The new JIA routes were three of 19 that Allegiant announced on Tuesday, including four from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Lexington, Ky.

The airline has flights to 69 cities from Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296