German carrier airberlin is to increase capacity to Fort Myers on the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida this summer with the addition of a fourth weekly rotation to Southwest Florida International Airport from Düsseldorf. This remains the sole non-stop transatlantic service into Fort Myers from Europe and complements airberlin’s other Florida route, a daily operation to Miami International Airport.
Despite Southwest Florida International Airport’s Americas focus, it is actually among the largest airports in the US by land size and is currently the second busiest single-runway airport in the country after San Diego International Airport. It has seen traffic growth in each of the last three years, hitting a record 8.3 million passengers in 2015 and surpassing the eight million figure for the first time since 2007.
airberlin will offer a new Sunday service on the Düsseldorf – Fort Myers route from June 5, 2016, adding the existing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday flights. Like its existing schedule the additional flight will be operated by an Airbus A330-200 configured with 290 seats – 19 in Business Class and 271 in Economy, including 48 XL seats offering greater leg-room.
The German carrier has been serving Fort Myers for more than 20 years having inherited the route from/to Düsseldorf when it acquired control of German leisure carrier LTU International Airways in 2007. It took over the operation of the link in May 2009 after completing the integration of the LTU operation under its own Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).
With the only direct link from Europe to Fort Myers it is unsurprising that Germany is the largest O&D market for European traffic to and from Southwest Florida International Airport. LTU had previously also linked Munich to Fort Myers on a summer only seasonal basis, while Condor (part of Thomas Cook) also offered flights between Frankfurt and Fort Myers up until April 2007.
An estimated 240,000 two-way passengers a year are currently flying between Europe and Fort Myers, according to MIDT data for 2014. The German market accounted for 54.4 percent of this demand ahead of the United Kingdom and Switzerland – the only other country markets to have annual flows of more than 10,000 passengers.
After Düsseldorf (an average of 175 daily bi-directional passengers), Frankfurt (64 daily passengers), London Heathrow (57 daily passengers), Munich (55 daily passengers), Zurich (24 daily passengers) and Manchester (19 daily passengers) are the largest indirect O&D markets.