History 7

For the first time in nearly three decades, New Bedford Regional Airport hosted a larger volume commercial airline. Elite Airways provides nonstop jet service from New Bedford to Vero Beach, Florida, that began Dec. 16, 2017.

“We were looking for a Boston-related airport that did not have service into it,” Elite Airways President John Pearsall said. “We look at New Bedford and think we’ve got, for what we do for our customers, the best of both worlds. You’ve got access to Boston. You’ve got access to the Cape. And you’ve got access to Rhode Island. We think it will be a total home run.”

The 17-jet airline known as Elite Airways, began in 2006 and serves private charters as well as commercial service. The fleet consists of two kinds of jets: the Bombardier CRJ-200, which seats 50 passengers, and the CRJ-700, which carries 70 passengers. Both will fly out of New Bedford.

“It’s a nice moment to celebrate, but there’s still a lot of planning to do and getting more airlines interested,” said our Airport Director Scot Servis. “Getting the first airline here and interested is the first high hurdle to clear. It starts to build a track record when we talk to other airlines to come.”

The partnership between Elite Airways and New Bedford began with a simple door knock in Florida. Chairperson of the New Bedford Regional Airport Commission, Paul Barton, traveled to Florida three years ago and pitched the value of the airport to Pearsall.

“He’s very persistent in a friendly way,” Pearsall said. “I would say he made this happen. A lot of credit goes to him, and, of course, everyone else on the airport board.”

Three years after meeting Pearsall, the partnership became possible after the airport experienced multiple renovations including 139 certification among other things such as TSA checkpoint. “We are encouraged that the recent hard work to secure FAA approval for commercial air service from our airport is already paying off,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said.

The upgrades will continue, too. The FAA provided $7.6 million in funding for the reconstruction of runway 14-32. The City Council is set to appropriate that funding Tuesday night to begin construction. Servis said the airport plans to add another smaller airline soon, which would compete with Cape Air in service to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

The airport continues discussions with airlines similar to Elite Airways, but no new additions are imminent. The hope is that passenger data from a successful partnership with Elite Airways could lure more business.

Tickets available for purchase at EliteAirways.com.
-Micheal Bonner