The air travel industry lately has seen numerous unflattering stories about airline and airport delays, labor and pilot shortages, late or missing luggage, and flight cancellations. Airline travelers in Florida, and in the Tampa Bay area in particular, have a number of excellent airports to choose from when making their travel plans.
There are 20 commercial service airports in Florida and three in the Tampa Bay region. I’ve had the opportunity to work at all three and can attest to the great lengths all my colleagues go to in trying to make everyone’s journey, safe, secure, and problem-free as possible with airline performance levels outside airports area of control.
On Aug. 1, the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport received a great honor when the Florida Department of Transportation named your local airport the 2022 Florida Commercial Service Airport of the Year. This award recognizes outstanding achievements in airport aesthetics, safety, and airport management in the State of Florida. Given the frequent barrage of negative stories about the air travel industry, I thought it would be reassuring to our community to see a positive story about their local airport during these challenging times.
It is a tribute to the 150-plus Airport Authority employees who work so hard to ensure the aesthetics, safety, and management of your local facility is first class. It also is a positive reflection on all the tenant companies that operate here from airlines and their ground crews, to food, beverage and retail vendors, rental car firms, as well as all the non-airline firms, including general aviation service providers, hotels, and even a par-3 golf course all on airport property.
The Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is the fastest growing commercial service airport in the Florida. For 2021, SRQ processed 3,163,542 passengers, a 155.7% increase over 2020 and a 61% increase over 2019. Over the past four years, the airport has grown from six airlines and 12 nonstop destinations to 11 airlines and 53 nonstop destinations.
When you factor in the growth the airport has been experiencing it is especially significant because it demonstrates we have been able to maintain the level of convenience, cleanliness, and safety that has been a cornerstone of our brand when crowds and vehicle traffic were smaller. SRQ utilizes modern technology on its air carrier runways and takes great care to ensure the airfield is maintained in compliance with all federal standards and regulations. SRQ places a high value on security with a recent installation of a new access control system and a digital CCTV system that monitors all terminal and airfield activity on a continuous basis. The airport is regularly inspected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with outstanding results.
Several projects were completed in the last couple years, including an airport gateway project to upgrade the airport entrance signage and landscaping, and all new air-conditioned jet bridges. Parking lots were expanded to accommodate the rapid growth in traffic and the security checkpoint was increased from four to six lanes.
To support the continued growth of the airport, more than $200 million in construction projects has been approved for airport expansion and improvements. Projects include a new five-gate passenger terminal, an apron expansion for aircraft parking, an updated baggage handling system, a new consolidated rental car facility, a new Customs facility for general aviation, a new ground transportation area, and a revamped cellphone lot.
Not only is the airport an important piece of travel infrastructure but it’s also huge economic driver to our community. The airport has over $2 billion of annual economic impact, all at no cost to local taxpayers as the Airport Authority has no taxing power and supports its entire operation from our business activities.
The investments in both operational and facility excellence could not be accomplished without strong support from the Authority governing board. These members have been diligent in their oversight roles and lend great business advice to our management team.
Finally, thank you to our users for your continued patronage and support. Your support has been a large part of our success and motivation to improve every day. The entire Authority team is honored to be named FDOT’s Commercial Service Airport of the Year for 2022 and we promise our continued enthusiasm and commitment to help improve the travel experience for our passengers and be a positive economic force in the community.
Rick Piccolo has been president and chief executive officer of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport since 1995 and serves on various international aviation, business and charitable boards. He can be contacted at Fredrick.email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: RICK PICCOLO: SRQ earns tribute from Florida Dept. of Transportation