Elite Airways (7Q, Portland Int'l Jetport) will find out on January 21 after a Vero Beach City Council meeting whether it will still be operating from the city's airport, Vero Beach, according to a report on Vero News. This follows a unanimous decision by the airport commission's advisory board earlier this month recommending that Elite's new three-year contract should be terminated.

The rationale for this decision, removing the airport's only regular serving airline, having served the facility since 2015, is because retaining commercial flights will cost the Florida city significant money going forward. The catalyst for the decision comes after the city was notified by the Florida Department for Transportation in December that the facility will be reclassified as a commercial rather than a general aviation (GA) airport in July. This is because Elite carried 11,084 passengers in 2018, passing the 10,000 passenger boardings threshold and making the airport eligible for less grant funding, according to city documents.

When an airport is defined as GA, the state usually covers 80% of the cost for large projects, leaving the city responsible for the remainder. As a commercial airport, such costs are split 50/50.

If the airline is allowed to continue serving Vero Beach, the city could see an annual budget deficit of up to USD1 million for airport projects in its five-year plan. City Manager Monte Falls said that Elite would have to carry 200,000 annual passengers in order to cover the funding shortfall.

"Unfortunately, I just don’t see how the present situation can sustain itself,” added Airport Commission Vice Chairman Louis Vocelle, Jr. “Any future operations by Elite with 10,000 enplanements is an economic detriment to the city and to the airport.”

John Pearsall, chief executive of Elite Airways, told the Fox-affiliated television station WFLX: “Vero Beach to New York is our number-one market and it has remained that way, and, in fact, our bookings into the summer are very strong also.”

Pearsall added that he had been caught off guard by the city’s airport commission vote recommending the termination of his airline's operations at the airport. This reaction is not surprising considering that in late November 2019 the airline and the city council agreed to a new three-year contract, including increased airport fees for Elite, based on higher anticipated costs for staffing and security.

The regional carrier currently flies 2x weekly to New York Newark and offers seasonal services to Sarasota/Bradenton and Portland Int'l Jetport. Prior to Elite's current services, the last commercial flights to operate from Vero Beach were in 1996 when American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) terminated its operations to Miami Int'l.