Charlotte County Airport Authority board members took issue at the end of Thursday's monthly meeting with a recent comment by Allegiant Travel Company President John Redmond.
The comment, which was "we might as well change the name of the airport because it really is ours," was made by Redmond during Allegiant's annual Investor Day presentation. During that presentation, company executives told investors about the growth of the company and details concerning the upcoming development of the planned Sunseeker Resort in Charlotte Harbor.
"We were very frustrated about Mr. Redmond's remark," said Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) CEO James Parish.
"I'd write it off as the exuberance of an investor call," said Airport Authority Attorney Darol Carr. "I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying it was made during an investor call relative to Sunseeker so if you put it into the context of where it was said, it wasn't a challenge to you."
He goes on to say: ”So this is a great slide, I love this picture because it really communicates just how dominant Allegiant is at Punta Gorda. You see seven aircrafts on the tarmac, we actually have nine there; can’t fit it all in this small vignette of a picture, but it’s impressive. When you pull up to the front door, we might as well change the name of the airport because it really is ours.”
Redmond continues to discuss how the airport's passenger and destination count has improved since 2013, moving from 20 to 44 destinations, and anticipating the passenger count to get up to 2.2 million range and the number of cities expanding to 60 in the future.
“So very impressive and of course, even as impressive is when we’ve entered a market, it’s been 100 percent stimulated by us. So the growth hasn’t been − it’s been 100 percent incremental due to us,” Redmond said.
With an initial suggestion of drafting a letter from the board to Allegiant, the board decided to proceed privately with the comment.
The board also approved, in a split 3-2 vote, a resolution to increase the passenger facility charges from $2 to $4.50 per passenger. Commission Chair James Herston, Vice-Chair Robert Hancik and commissioner Paul Andrews voted for the resolution while commissioners Kathleen Coppola and Pam Seay voted no.
"It can really add up," said Coppola. "I feel bad for the families."
The airport's goal is to make the change by January 2019, according to PGD spokesperson Kaley Miller.
Parish's annual evaluation was also discussed, the board granted him an average score of 4.6 out of 5. Each commissioner granted Parish above a 4.5 - except for Hancik, who gave Parish a 3.7 and did not grade Parish on specific criteria, but instead just gave him an overall score.
"I've never seen (Parish's) goals and objectives defined," said Hancik, who wanted perceived gray areas of the evaluation to be defined.
"This airport has changed dramatically and it's all for the better," Seay said. "That's not just because we have an airline here, it's because we have tremendous leadership."
The regular October monthly meeting for Charlotte County's Airport Authority is cancelled this year due to the Florida International Air Show, which is scheduled Oct. 19-21. The next meeting is planned Nov. 15 at 9 a.m. at the Charlotte County Airport Authority Board Room, located at 7375 Utilities Road, Building 313.