Photo: Punta Gorda Airport
James Parish is the CEO of the Charlotte County Airport Authority and the Punta Gorda Airport.
Economic Backbone: Transportation/Trade/Logistics
Sunnier Days Ahead
Punta Gorda Airport sees opportunity as the Sunseeker Resort nears its open.
Coming off a record year of passenger traffic, Punta Gorda Airport is expecting business to get even better with the planned opening this year of the 785-room Sunseeker Resort on Charlotte Harbor.
“I know the resort is going to be big on convention traffic during the off season — summer — and so we see opportunity for our numbers to pick up during the off season when we don’t get as many in-bound visitors,” says James W. Parish, CEO of the Charlotte County Airport Authority and the Punta Gorda Airport. “It’s going to be huge for us.”
Parish, the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2021 southern region airport manager of the year, says the airport is working on infrastructure to allow buses to shuttle passengers between Sunseeker and the airport and is also working with the Transportation Security Administration to eventually allow Sunseeker guests the option of checking their luggage at the resort rather than lugging their bags to the airport. The Sunseeker Resort is a subsidiary of Allegiant, the airport’s dominant carrier, handling about 99% of passenger flights.
Last year, the airport opened its $18-million PGD Air Center, which includes office, meeting and event space, as well as a pilot’s lounge and a ramp for aircraft parking. This year, it unveiled a renovated primary runway, which had been closed for a year.
Upcoming projects include baggage claim system improvements and an estimated $40-million project to add seven or eight gates and expand ticketing and baggage claim areas. The planning work is underway, and the project will likely be put out for bid by next year.
Meanwhile, Parish estimates passenger counts will rise another 10% this year, after 1.84 million passengers in 2022 and 1.57 million in 2021.
“We’re one of the prettiest areas in Southwest Florida,” he says. “People want to come to Florida. I don’t think I could re-create this success in Wyoming.”