Southwest Airlines Coming to Northwest Florida-Panama City International Airport
Panama City, FL - (March 02, 2010) - Millions of potential tourists and business travelers on Wednesday got closer to relaxing escapes when Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly announced that the carrier will provide service to the new Northwest Florida-Panama City International Airport when the facility opens in May 2010.
"This is a game changer for Beaches of South Walton," said Sonny Mares, executive director of the Beaches of South Walton Tourist Development Council. "Securing Southwest Airlines to serve this region is a huge win for businesses and the tourism industry in Walton County. The added air service will fulfill a critical need, providing travelers direct access to Northwest Florida."
Southwest Airlines will open a gateway to the scenic beauty of the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast for travelers from places like Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, and Washington, D.C. Meeting planners also will gain a new destination when searching for a memorable coastal outing.
Kelly made the announcement Wednesday during a tour and briefing named with football jargon that denotes a scoring opportunity: "Entering the Red Zone: Drive to the Finish at the Northwest Florida-Panama City International Airport."
The commitment from Southwest Airlines puts big points on the board for business and tourism across the region, as well as consumers hungry for beach travel.
The new airport will be located in western Bay County north of County Road 388 and east of State Road 79 on land donated by The St. Joe Company.
Additionally, the airport's green focus is in line with the sustainable tourism ideals that Beaches of South Walton rigorously has followed throughout the last decade. Forty percent of the land in Walton County is preserved as state parks and forests, and the destination has the largest concentration of rare coastal dune lakes in the world, with 15 dotting the coastline.
The airport plan incorporates approximately 78,000 acres and, of particular significance, the boundary of the plan includes an entire bay system (West Bay), thereby allowing unprecedented planning to protect an entire watershed. An innovative element is the West Bay Preservation Area, which will preserve approximately 41,000 acres and, when fully implemented, will provide for habitat corridors, open space and stream protection.