Elite Airways is putting the “international” back in the Portland International Jetport.

The Portland-based airline announced Wednesday that it will launch a Portland-to-Halifax, Nova Scotia, route starting June 30.

The new route will operate Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays with fares starting at $169 each way, according to a statement from the airline.

“Halifax and Portland are both very popular destinations, and we designed this route to be convenient for business and leisure travelers who prefer a one-hour nonstop flight rather than to connect through other airports, take a long ferry ride or a 13-hour drive,” said John Pearsall, president of Elite Airways, in the release. “We plan to further expand this route in the fall so that passengers from Halifax can connect to other Florida destinations in Portland on Elite Airways.”

The new route will restore international service to the jetport, which ended in 2014 when AirCanada stopped offering service to Toronto, said Zachary Sundquist, the assistant jetport director.

“We’re really excited to be back in the international game,” he said.


With the new route, the jetport could become more of a hub for Canadian passengers making connecting flights to other U.S. destinations, particularly to Florida, since Elite already offers direct service to the Sunshine State, according to Paul Bradbury, the jetport director.

“Halifax is important and we think it’s a market that will help the jetport,” Bradbury said. The jetport has seen steady growth in the number of passengers it serves, setting a record in 2016 with 1.78 million passengers.

The new route is a welcome option for local businesspeople. Steve Hadik, owner of Woolwich-based Pole Star Maritime, said he was thrilled when he heard of it Wednesday. His company provides supplies and support to shipyards and shipbuilders in Canada and off-shore oil rigs in Newfoundland. Hadik said he usually drives to shipyards in Halifax, and must take three different flights to get to Newfoundland.

“This is fantastic news,” said Hadik, who was attending a trade show in Houston, Texas. “I’ve been waiting for this forever.”

Canada is the leading trade partner with Maine and the United States, according to the Maine International Trade Center, a group comprised of manufacturers and service providers, economic development and government agencies, educational institutions, and trade assistance organizations. In 2015, Maine exported nearly $1.3 billion in goods and commodities – or about half of its total exports – to Canada, according to the MITC.

“This is very welcomed news for Maine and the business community,” said Jeffry Bennett, the center’s Canadian desk director and senior trade specialist. “Maine already has strong ties to Halifax and the Maritimes, through companies with operations on both sides of the border like Nautel, Stantec and Emera, plus increasing trade, investment, joint ventures from a growing number of Maine-based businesses. This news can only strengthen those ties.”


Direct air service from Portland to Nova Scotia ended in 2010 after Starlink Aviation lost a Canadian subsidy to support its operations.

Ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, has been intermittent since then. Now The Cat, a high-speed ferry operated by Bay Ferries Ltd., is entering its second year of service. Last year it served 35,551 passengers.

Sundquist acknowledged that the route could serve some ferry passengers who may only want to take the 5½-hour trip one way.

“We’re not looking to compete, but there might be some people who want to take the cruise over and fly home,” he said.

In 2014, Elite Airways decided to expand its charter airline into regularly scheduled passenger service. It was focused on breaking into the highly competitive market by connecting smaller New England cities with Florida destinations to capitalize on snowbird travelers.

Specifically, the airline targeted Florida’s Space Coast – the area around Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center – as its primary destination. It now offers direct flights from Portland to regional airports in Melbourne and Sarasota.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or [email protected]

Twitter @randybillings

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