PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Since June 2, Spirit Airlines has not been having any flights out of Pensacola International Airport because of a lack of air traffic controllers, but Erica Grancagnolo, Air Service Development Manager for the airport, said things are turning around.
“Early this spring, we received a phone call from Spirit stating that they were needing to suspend operations temporarily here in Pensacola,” said Grancagnolo. “They cited the air traffic control issues in Florida as the reason for the suspension of service.”
According to the airline, they will be reinstating service at the airport in November. Grancagnolo said they will be reinstating their Orlando route and a new route to Ft. Lauderdale.
“We are increasing our inter-Florida direct flights, which is something that is always a priority here at Pensacola International Airport,” said Grancagnolo.
Even with the lack of Spirit flights out of the airport, Grancagnolo said they have been very busy.
“We weren’t impacted in a decrease of passengers,” said Grancagnolo. “We are already up from 2021 and 2021 was a record-breaking year for us. We had 2.3 million passengers passing through the airport. So, we are on track to break that record. We didn’t feel an impact of less passengers, but we certainly welcome Spirit to return to Pensacola. We were very pleased to hear they are committed to serving the Pensacola market.”
According to the FAA, flights are up 150-170% at some airports in the Sunshine State, and Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, which controls air space throughout North Florida and South Georgia, is one of the busiest in the United States.
Grancagnolo said they do not hire air traffic controllers at the airport, that the Federal Aviation Administration handles all of the hirings.
She said for anyone watching national news, or is in touch with the aviation world, there is a lot going on.
“Luckily, fuel prices are going down a little bit,” said Grancagnolo. “Of course, we had unprecedented fuel prices all summer. Everyone is also familiar with the pilot shortages and the crew shortages. So, airlines are dealing with so much right now. It’s tough to speculate what the future holds.”
Though the airlines are being put under a lot of pressure, Grancagnolo said Pensacola International Airport has not been affected as badly as other airports.
“We are looking to continue to see strong numbers and strong growth here in Pensacola,” said Grancagnolo. “What you can do if you are flying out, you can go to our website, and you can track the status of your flight. Most airlines also have apps that do a really good job of keeping you up to date as far as cancellations or delays go. It’s good to keep in mind that that is just the nature of the beast post-COVID, and we hope that people keep an open mind and keep an eye out for any schedule changes.”
Right now, Pensacola International Airport does have a customer experience survey, with the hopes of hearing from its passengers.
“If you are walking through the airport, you’ll see some QR codes that you can scan and you can tell us how we’re doing,” said Grancagnolo. “It’s really important for us to get passenger’s feedback because we want to make sure that we fulfill our promise to fly easy, fly Pensacola.”
For more information on Pensacola International Airport, click here.