April 21, 2024
Northwest Florida's four major airports see influx of travelers
The total number of passengers at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport has doubled in three years.

Northwest Florida Roundup

Northwest Florida's four major airports see influx of travelers

Carlton Proctor | 6/24/2019

Taking Off

Northwest Florida’s four major airports have seen historic rises in passenger counts. Fueling the increases: The arrival of several commercial carriers along with a strong regional economy.

Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport

  • The Count: 1.4 million – Total passengers at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport in 2018, double the 700,000 the airport logged in 2015
  • Quote: “In 2015, we had direct service to five cities by American, Delta and United,” says Tracy Stage, airport manager. “Three short years later, we have grown to five airlines, including Allegiant and Silver, with direct service to 37 cities, including non-stop, year-round service to New York City. We are now deemed the fastest-growing airport in the nation,” says Stage, citing a recent article on air travel in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
  • What’s Ahead: To accommodate this growth, the airport in April launched a $33-million project that includes a parking lot expansion and numerous improvements to its passenger terminal. “All this equates to hundreds of millions of dollars into our local economy and, honestly, to our entire region,” says Stage. “Just in 2018 alone, the airport grew the local workforce by 423 new jobs.”

Pensacola International Airport

  • The Count: 1.9 million – Passenger count in 2018. Pensacola International is on pace to attract 2.4 million passengers this year.

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (Panama City)

  • The Jump: Nearly 30% – Passenger increase for the first eight months of 2019 over the year-earlier period, despite the regional impact of Hurricane Michael

Tallahassee International Airport

  • The Count: 345,418 – Passengers who passed through the airport in the first five months of fiscal 2019, compared to 325,406 the previous year, up 6.1%


  • Todd Thomson is the new president and CEO of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. Thomson replaces Clay Ingram, who earlier this year was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to lead Volunteer Florida. Thomson had been vice president of public affairs at the chamber.


  • With a final bid of $6.8 million, Tallahassee recently won an auction for the 50-year-old Northwood Centre shopping mall. Title to the 34.5-acre site, which includes five additional nearby buildings, was held by a Miami Beach company. Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey says ownership of the property gives the city the opportunity to revitalize the North Monroe commercial corridor. Dailey says the citizens of Tallahassee “got an incredible deal from a business standpoint.”
  • Bay County is set to get more than $6.6 million in BP oil spill settlement money from Triumph Gulf Coast for Hurricane Michael recovery. Triumph oversees $1.5 billion in settlement money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The money will mainly be used to help cover property tax losses caused by Hurricane Michael for the county’s unincorporated areas, the cities and the school district.


  • Panama City-based Bay Medical Sacred Heart anticipates hiring 300 employees over the next several months. The new hires will replace about half of the 630 employees laid off in February because of the impact of Hurricane Michael last fall.
  • The Mustian Center, a sixstory surgical facility, opened this past spring in Tallahassee.
  • Gulf Breeze-based Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine has opened a clinic in the Fort Walton Beach area. Dr. Anthony J. Brothers, a local orthopedic surgeon who joined Andrews earlier this year, is the lead physician at the new facility.


  • Memphis-based Southern Airways has launched weekend service between Destin Executive Airport and Tampa International Airport. Southern has been providing air service between Memphis and Destin since 2013 and currently operates more than 200 flights daily in the Southeast.


  • The University of West Florida’s Center for Cybersecurity opened a headquarters in downtown Pensacola. The facility, housed on the second floor of the Studer Community Institute building, includes state-of-the-art labs for training, education and simulations. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to connect with the community and with businesses and to really expand not just the UWF footprint downtown and throughout Pensacola, but to also expand interest and awareness in cyber-security,” says Eman El-Sheikh, director of the center and professor of computer science at UWF.


Sandy D’Alemberte

FSU president emeritus and former state legislator Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte died May 20 after collapsing on the way back from an appointment in Jacksonville. He was 85.

D’Alemberte was highly regarded as a brilliant legal mind and international champion of human rights. He established FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and won numerous awards, including the 2007 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award and the 2003 ABA Medal for his work in Central and Eastern Europe.


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