Visit Florida's successes are adding up. I hope you're not still doubting it.
For the second day in a row Florida had news that reflects like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on the state's invaluable tourism arm.
On Thursday The Florida Squeeze reported premier international carrier British Airways (BA) just that morning began service from London Gatwick Airport to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. This is an airline in a cost-cutting posture like most of its counterparts, by the way. It's investing in Florida even though in recent years it has discontinued some of its more traditional North American routes.
Then on Friday, Gov. Rick Scott -- in Cocoa continuing his four city “Honoring Florida Veterans Tour” -- announced a major transportation and tourism milestone: Florida’s airports rank second in the nation for airline passenger volume, according to preliminary data from the Federal Aviation Administration and Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
In fact, Florida has four large hub airports, more than any other state.
“I am proud to announce that Florida’s airports have surpassed Texas and are now second in the nation for the most amount of airline passengers," Scott told a crowd gathered for the veterans event. "Florida’s airports help welcome millions of visitors, business leaders and families to our state each year, and have a significant impact on supporting job creation and growing our economy. That is why I am proud that we have invested more than $1 billion in state funding in our airports over the past six years."
Scott made a point of applauding President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Transportation for awarding $10.6 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to eight Florida airports -- Daytona Beach International, DeFuniak Springs, Northwest Florida Beaches International, Wauchula Municipal, St Pete‐Clearwater International, Jacksonville International, New Smyrna Beach Municipal, and Space Coast Regional.
“I would also like to thank the Trump Administration ..." said Scott. "I was proud to join President Trump last month at the White House to discuss the future of infrastructure, and it is clear that we have a partner in D.C. who understands the importance of supporting transportation projects in Florida. We will continue to make important investments in our airports so Florida can be first for airline passengers.”
Mike Dew, Florida Department of Transportation secretary, said, “Florida’s airports are critical to the economy of our state and Gov. Scott has demonstrated that by investing over $1 billion in our airport system.”
British Airways, meanwhile, will operate its Gatwick-Fort Lauderdale route four days a week, using Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, according to the airline. Fort Lauderdale will be the fourth city in Florida served by BA, after Miami, Tampa, and Orlando.
The budget Scott signed in June, which he calls "Fighting for Florida’s Future budget," included more than $263 million for aviation improvements, and since 2011, the state has invested more than $1 billion in its airports.
Scott said Florida airports account for 1.3 million Florida jobs with an annual payroll of $44.5 billion. They support more than $144 billion in annual economic activity.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith