Portland-based Elite Airways has added a new route to Florida and will beginning flying to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport starting Nov. 17.

The flights will run twice weekly – on Thursdays and Sundays – between Portland and Sarasota, on the west coast of Florida.

Elite, the only airline offering direct flights from the Portland International Jetport to Florida, added service to Naples, Florida, in February and increased its number of flights to Melbourne, Florida, starting with the April school vacation week, citing increased demand.

Zach Sundquist, the assistant manager of the airport, said data show that the west coast of Florida is the most underserved market from Portland. He said that’s based on determining the ultimate destination of passengers on flights leaving from the airport.

Historically, Florida has been the most popular destination from the jetport, but direct service stopped during the recession in 2008. Overall, the passenger count from the jetport rose by about 61,000 last year, for a total of more than 1.7 million people flying to or from Portland.

John Piersall, president of the airline, declined to provide specific projections for the new service, but Elite expects “a very high load factor” for the flights. He said the service to other Florida destinations from Portland was “a big success last winter” and has remained popular through the summer months.

Elite is the newest airline to offer service at the jetport and offers seasonal flights to Bar Harbor in addition to the flights to Florida. Six others offer nonstop service to 12 destinations.

The Sarasota-Bradenton flights will leave Portland at 11:45 a.m. and arrive in Florida at 2:45 p.m. Return flights will leave Florida at 3:30 p.m. and arrive in Portland at 6:30 p.m.


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