Elite Airways (7Q, Portland, ME) has decided to postpone the launch of its Newport News/Williamsburg flights to Newark and Islip citing "the challenging perceptions surrounding" Newport News airport. The US carrier made the announcement on its website.

The nonstop service was slated to start on March 13 but Elite has said that postponing was necessary to "allow both the airline and the airport to be more successful in launching new air service to meet the needs of the community."

Presumably, Elite is referring to the risk that Newport News may lose state funding following its decision to pay the debts of failed start-up PEOPLExpress (V2, Newport News). As previously reported, the Peninsula Airport Commission, which runs Newport News airport, guaranteed a USD3.55 million line of credit for PEOPLExpress from TowneBank. The Commission had used a discretionary fund which had been earmarked for infrastructure and capital improvements. The matter is being investigated by auditors from the Virginia Department of Transportation, but state representatives have already indicated that they will withdraw funding from the airport.

In a statement, the Commission said it was aware that the route had been postponed due to "negative and inaccurate headlines" but looked forward to setting a new launch date soon.

Just last week, The Daily Press reported that the Commission was set to purchase nearly USD400,000 worth of ground and service equipment, as well as USD900,000 worth of incentives to lure Elite to run the Newport routes. That decision had been made before a final operating agreement had been signed.

Elite Airways has come under some flak recently, itself, with the Airport Authority of Naples, FL threatening to pull a USD75,000 subsidy from the small carrier. Elite was supposed to connect the Florida airport with Newark, but suspended the route due to low numbers. Naples Airport Authority claims Elite has reneged on its contract and will no longer enjoy free rent and other subsidies.