- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Portland International Jetport is resuming non-stop flights to Florida for the first time in more than five years, in response to growing demand.

The Portland Press Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1me0gdQ ) the first passengers left Friday to fly nonstop aboard a Portland-based Elite Airways flight to Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

Nonstop Florida flights from the jetport stopped in the wake of the 2008 recession. With jetport traffic exceeding pre-recession levels for the first time this year, airlines are more than amenable to adding more flights.

Elite Airways president John Pearsall says it’s a huge opportunity for his company, because “Mainers love a nonstop flight.”

Florida has long been Maine’s most popular flight destination, with roughly 140,000 passengers leaving the jetport for airports in Florida in 2014.

The cruise industry accounts for a large share of Florida visits from Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, said Eric Baxter, manager of travel products and services for AAA Northern New England.

When you add the number of retired New Englanders in Florida and seasonal, “snowbird” residents for families to visit in the winter, it’s no surprise that the state dominates flight itineraries in Portland, Burlington and Manchester, Baxter said.

“Florida is tremendously popular, and it has been forever,” Baxter said.

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