In a move that is beyond insulting to the tourism industry that fuels the state’s economy, Delta Airlines has been given a guarantee of tax dollars to finance Saab prop jet flights to Tallahassee from three Florida cities.
This is being done for the convenience of state legislators in the Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale areas, and it stinks. It is beyond disgraceful: it’s totally unjustifiable.
Traveling abroad as I have the past few weeks the impact of the cuts to Visit Florida have been observed. Some British families have forgone their annual Florida vacation and other Europeans and Indians need an incentive to travel to the state in this economic climate.
FlyJetair.com a Belgian airline has canceled its flights to Sanford Airport from Brussels, Fly Globespan a large Scottish airline is scaling back summer flights to Sanford and Thomas Cook Airlines has scaled back its scheduled charters from Manchester to Sanford. El Al has dropped service to Miami, and Air Jamaica is dropping service to Miami and Orlando (but continuing service to Fort Lauderdale).
This winter due the economy, Air France did not fly a second daily Miami-Paris flight for the first winter in almost two decades, while American Airlines choose not resume its previously seasonal flight from Miami to Manchester. British Airways operated three daily flights to Miami last winter but this year is only operating two. Lufthansa did not resume its seasonal Munich flight opting to route passengers via Frankfurt instead. Alitalia canceled the only nonstop service from Miami to Milan which not only affects tourism but the important fashion industry as well.
In other words, tourism from foreigners, the very life blood of the state’s sales tax based economy is contracting mightily. The non tourism based businesses that fuel Florida such as the aforementioned fashion industry are hurting as well. Yet Florida’s Government is more concerned about their personal convenience.
Domestically, Delta Airlines has less daily flights to the state of Florida from major business centers outside the South than anytime since before its merger with Northeast Airlines in 1972. Additionally, American Airlines has pulled back non-Miami based operations throughout Florida, and United is hardly serving the state at all these days. Delta has less flights to Orlando today than anytime since becoming the official airline of Walt Disney World in 1986.
The pullback of air traffic from the state bringing domestic and international tourist traffic however has not been a concern of legislators. But the lack of conveniently timed flights scheduled around committee meetings to Tallahassee has for years been an obsession of certain legislators that will go unnamed in this piece.
The $750,000 the state has put up to guarantee turbo prop air service to the capitol city, an airport which is not able to maintain enough traffic on its own to justify airline service could be easily spent on attracting visitors to Florida, at one of the state’s tourist driven airports: Orlando International, Orlando Sanford, Southwest Florida International (Fort Myers/Naples area) or Eglin Air Force Base’s Commercial Airport.
The expenditure of these funds on flights to a city that draws few tourists and attracts little if any business traffic cannot be justified at this time of budget crises and reduced tourist traffic to the area. Bu Florida’s Government has once again proven it is shortsighted and simply concerned about individual selfish pursuits.
The fact that the capitol of the state of Florida, the fourth largest state in our union cannot maintain consistent air service should be a call to Leon County and the city of Tallahassee to diversify their economy. Do something to bring businesses or attract tourist traffic to your great city. Stop putting your city at the mercy of lobbyists, legislators and college students and join the rest of 21st century Florida which is a dynamic worldly place.