The only airline offering direct flights from the Portland International Jetport to Florida is adding service to Naples, and will offer more flights during the upcoming April vacation week.

Starting Feb. 29, Elite Airways’ twice-weekly flights to Melbourne International Airport on Florida’s east coast will go on to Naples Municipal Airport, the company said.

“We want to give people what they need,” said John Pearsall, president of the Portland-based airline. “We’ve had a lot of requests for southwest Florida up to Maine.”

Flights to Naples will start at $169 each way.

The airline first began offering the direct flights in December 2015, and Mainers’ demand has exceeded the company’s expectations, Pearsall said.

As evidence, he says Elite’s regular flights on Monday and Friday during the April school vacation week were sold out.

Pearsall said five additional flights have been added on April 15, 16, 18 and on April 22 and 23.

“We structured it to be a benefit to the Maine population so they could do a weekend in Florida, and vice versa, bring people up in the summertime.”

Historically, Florida has been the most popular destination from the jetport, but direct service stopped during the recession in 2008.

The airline flies 70-seat planes. During the Christmas season, it also added more flights to meet passenger demand.

Elite is the newest airline to offer service at the jetport. Six others offer non-stop service to 12 destinations.

About 61,000 more passengers passed through the jetport in 2015 than the year before, for a total of roughly 1.729 million people, said airport Director Paul Bradbury. Florida remains the most frequent destination state for travelers departing Portland.

Bradbury said 2015 would have been the busiest ever, had it not been for cancellations during the first three months because of winter weather that closed many of the mid-Atlantic hubs where travelers connect to other flights.

“After we got through the first quarter, five months of the year were all-time records,” he said.


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