Florida airport offers direct flights from Windsor to less-touristy options

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson




Windsorites who soon fly directly to Florida will find options a little off the beaten track.

Porter Airlines recently announced it would run direct flights from Windsor and Ottawa to Florida — from Dec. 16 to March 31 — marking the first time the company flies directly to the Sunshine State from anywhere other than Toronto.

The new destination, Orlando Melbourne International Airport, completes the theme of flying relatively hassle-free from Windsor International Airport — which bills itself as Your Quick Gateway, a play on the YQG international airport code.

“We’re like Orlando, only better,” Lori Booker, spokeswoman for the Orlando-Melbourne airport, said Monday in Windsor.

“Windsor airport’s name is Your Quick Gateway. We’re kind of the same thing into Orlando.”

Windsor airport, which handled about 330,000 passengers in 2016, is actually slightly larger than its Orlando-Melbourne counterpart.

Porter helped turn Orlando Melbourne Airport into an international airport three years when it started flying there from Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto.

In 2017, Orlando Melbourne was named eighth-most beautiful airport approach in the world by PrivateFly, a booking platform for private jet charters (Billy Bishop ranked 10th). Passengers approach Orlando Melbourne over Barrier Island on the Atlantic coast.

“You can fly into the beachside and have a calmer, less stressful experience,” Booker said. “When you get off the plane you smell the ocean. You land in paradise.”

Orlando, Disney World and Daytona Beach are between 60 and 90 minutes away by car. Even closer are a number of other attractions, such as Cape Canaveral or Sebastian Inlet where manatees and dolphins swim.

“It’s a slice of heaven,” Booker said. “It’s not tourism Florida. It’s where people who live there go. We’re literally smack dab in the middle of everything.”

National Airlines gave Windsor-Florida flights a try in 2015, but that only lasted a few months — when they pulled out of the passenger market altogether.

But Porter — whose motto is “flying refined” — is much more established in the passenger market, including in Windsor with four flights daily to Toronto since 2011. The one-way Windsor-Florida flights will cost $247, including taxes and fees, and a little less coming back.

Porter spokesman Brad Cicero said partnering with Orlando Melbourne Airport makes sense. The two companies now have a good relationship, and landing on the east coast of Florida provides something special.

“It brings you to a different part of the state that’s just a little off the beaten path,” said Cicero, noting that Porter’s service of free snacks, beer and wine attracts a lot of customers. “But you’re still right by Orlando if you want to go their parks and attractions. You can do the big stuff or something a little bit different.

“This is a big step for us and we think for Windsor in particular, having this service is a great opportunity.”