Daytona “International” Airport: Another Pig in a Poke

Only in the weird world of Volusia County government – where throwing caution to the wind and playing fast-and-loose with other people’s money is considered a professional competency – could our “economic development” shills shamelessly dream up the asinine acronym MRG (“minimum revenue guarantee”) on the hope of luring the umpteenth “ultra-low-cost” airline to Daytona “International” Airport. 

On Tuesday, senior staff will use wildly subjective booking and economic impact estimates to sell the Volusia County Council another pig in a poke – a shadowy undisclosed air carrier that has apparently agreed to provide twice-weekly flights to two equally mysterious “premium destinations” (which, I assume, means anywhere other than Atlanta or Charlotte?)

Wait.  Haven’t we heard this horseshit before?  (More on that later…) 

Here’s the rub:

According to reports, the “secret” carrier wants Volusia County taxpayers to secure “start-up shortfalls in revenue” (read: operating overhead) with a pot of public funds – dubbed a “minimum revenue guarantee” – to be held in reserve, just in case they need it. 


According to an informative article by business editor Clayton Park writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“If approved by the County, the proposed minimum revenue guarantee fund would only be made available to the mystery airline if the revenues it generates from the new service at Daytona Beach International Airport were to fail to meet its pre-determined minimum targets. Should that occur, the airline would only be able to draw from the fund the amount needed to make up for its revenue shortfall.

The money for the fund would come from the county, with the source up to the discretion of the council to decide. Helga van Eckert, the county’s economic development director, confirmed that her division, for example, does have several million dollars in reserves to be used for “business support and economic development programs.”

Van Eckert said she would not be opposed to designating a portion of those reserves for the airline fund, but added that option would be up to the council, not her.”

As only happens at the nexus of government and corporate welfare schemes, our elected representatives will be directed by senior staff to put $1 million in the proverbial brown paper bag to be doled out to the unnamed airline in the event the carrier fails to meet arbitrary revenue levels conjured up by the company itself…

Sounds logical, eh?    

I mean, your small mom-and-pop business – the one that jumped through myriad government hoops to get started, pays taxes, employs area residents, spends local, and scrimps and saves to make it in this artificial economy – receives monthly bailouts from the several million dollars Helga keeps squirreled away in the cookie jar for “business support programs” whenever you fail to meet monthly revenue goals, right? 


Look, I no longer possess the cognitive skills to remember all the bargain basement carriers that have attached themselves to the public teat, slobbered down hundreds-of-thousands in incentives from Volusia County taxpayers, then left us in their jetwash – but here’s a few:   

Anyone remember our short-lived relationship with JetBlue – who, in 2016, entered the Daytona Beach market following a $2.3 million package that included the use of local hotel bed tax revenues from Volusia County’s three tourism advertising agencies to market Daytona Beach in the New York market, waiving airport fees, and promises by numerous local businesses to fly JetBlue via a “travel bank” established by the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce?

Despite those lucrative perquisites, in late 2018, JetBlue flew off into the wild blue yonder while senior airport officials mewled about what a “blow” the carrier’s departure was for the community…

So, rather than learn from their very expensive mistake – those with a fiduciary responsibility to steward public funds in a rational and responsible manner did the same damn thing while expecting a different result.

In JetBlue’s wake, “Silver Airways” accepted a publicly-funded goody bag filled with expensive inducements which included some $100,000 to market a once daily Daytona Beach-Ft. Lauderdale route, a partnership agreement with the Daytona Tortugas organization (remember Tortuga One?), waiving landing fees and “facilities costs” (read: rent and utilities), a year of free ground handling services (estimated at $91,250) and a quarterly payment of $25,000 for one year to help “offset some of the airlines startup costs.”

For travel to Ft. Lauderdale?

In 2019, Silver suspended service at DAB, explaining “…the flights were not operating at a fare level that is financially sustainable to continue in current market conditions,” – which (I think) translates to English as, “No one wanted the hassle of flying from Daytona Beach to Ft. Lauderdale when they can drive it in just over 3-hours…”

So, rather than step back and analyze why DAB is routinely jilted by “low cost” domestic carriers, our powers that be opted to throw more Chanel No. 5 on the hog – spending $12 million renovating the terminal – because if millions in economic incentives aren’t working, it must be the carpet, right?   


Then came our short fling with the Canadian tour operator Sunwing

According to a 2018 News-Journal article:

“Sunwing agreed to give nonstop Toronto-Daytona Beach service a try in part thanks to an offer of economic incentives from the airport, the CVB and Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm. The agreement calls for the airport and visitors bureau each to chip in $125,000 towards a tourism marketing campaign aimed at the Toronto market, with Visit Florida providing matching funds as well as funds provided by the airline.

The airport also has agreed to waive facility and landing fees for the first two years of service here by Sunwing.”

Despite these money-flushing incentives, freebies, and marketing funds – when Canadian flights resumed in 2021, our friends at Sunwing apparently forgot to return DAB to the list…

Now, senior county administrators are asking Volusia County taxpayers to underwrite some enigmatic “ultra-low-cost-carrier” to the tune of $1 million – even though the council agenda package confirms that neither the terms of “MRG agreement,” nor the airline use/lease rental agreement, have been negotiated? 

Wow.  Talk about a pig in a poke…

Rather than take advantage of the valuable hindsight gained from our failed strategy of “throw more money at it” – tomorrow, the Volusia County Council will be blindly sold on another “game-changer” – led like lumbering oxen by our highly paid resident “experts” and encouraged to piss even more of our hard-earned money away on a mystery carrier that isn’t sure it wants its name associated with us at this point. 

My God…

George Santayana was right: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”      

11 thoughts on “Daytona “International” Airport: Another Pig in a Poke

  1. History is an idiot’s way of saying that something bad happened to someone else. This allows said idiot to blissfully believe it won’t happen to them. None of that bad stuff happened to the current crop of commissioners, therefore….


  2. “Helga van Eckert, the county’s economic development director, confirmed that her division, for example, does have several million dollars in reserves”
    Why does her group have ‘reserves’ of that magnitude, time for zero based budgeting annually, justify budget , use it or lose it!


  3. Right on Barker took Jet Blue 6 years ago to Kennedy in 2 hours non stop..Daytona the city and its Mayor think we are stupid.Will drive to NY State.Daytona can rot in hell


  4. I always fly out of Daytona. For the convenience. Quick Uber ride from my condo on the beach to and from the airport. I always fly. Delta and I am platinum with Delta. So a new ultra low-cost carrier is not of great interest to me.


  5. This, of course, isn’t Volusias first trip to the rodeo, but you would think that having been “bucked” this many times, the riders might have learned when to say NO.
    It’s time to say NO, folks. If you want to give these people money, make their program MERIT based. Make them invest their own money, and offer them incentives based on what they ACTUALLY do for the County, and not what they promise. Let’s quit being the golden goose, and make these companies EARN their way, for a change.


  6. Avalo airline .twice a week to New Haven Connecticut .Ticket area will open up 2 hours before the flight.Will drive to New York or change at Atlanta or Charlotte and wait a few hours with a real airline.They also fly to Binghampton NY.Been there what a waste of an airline


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