Couple proposes Sarasota-based airline


Couple proposes Sarasota-based airline


Date: October 24, 2012
by: Kurt Schultheis | Managing Editor


In June, Sarasota-Bradenton International (SRQ) Airport President Fred Piccolo announced a new marketing campaign called “Do You SRQ?” urging residents and businesses to take a pledge to use their local airport.

Longboat Key residents Steve and Hannah Miller are taking that pledge to another level.

The Millers, who have more than 60 years combined in the aviation business, are in the concept stage of bringing an SRQ-based airline to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport called Sunrise Airlines of Sarasota. The move, they say, would jumpstart the local economy and get residents flying locally for competitive fares while using direct flights.

The Millers moved in February to Sarasota from Hong Kong and then moved to Longboat Key permanently in June.

“Steve couldn’t stay retired for more than two months,” Hannah Miller said.

The couple, who moved to the United States upon retirement to be closer to family, chose Sarasota over Boca Raton after friends and family urged them to check out the Gulf Coast before making a decision.

The only problem was the Millers arrived through Tampa International Airport and had no idea the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport existed until they were living here for a couple of months.

Steve Miller — who started a Hong Kong-based airline called Dragonair in the mid-1980s, now owns 31 jets flying to 25 destinations within Asia. He also formed another airline there in 2004, called Oasis, that ceased operations in 2008. He said thoughts of a Sarasota-based airline immediately popped into his head when he visited the local airport.

“Even when traveling at the Tampa airport, it’s almost impossible to get a direct flight,” Steve Miller said. “My aviation instincts were aroused immediately, and a local airline with direct flights and competitive fares would work here.”

Steve Miller, 73, said Sarasota residents and visitors “have endured inferior air connections for too long.”

“I can smell out where there’s an opportunity and put it into practice,” Steve Miller said. “I have found out there really is a need for a local airline here.”

Miller proposes that an airline utilizing Boeing 737-400 planes, with a home base at SRQ that offers 24 non-stop destinations in the U.S. and Canada, will work and could be up and running within 12 months.

In the first year of operation, the airline could handle eight non-stop flights with four aircraft; it would add eight additional flights and four more aircraft in the second year; and add eight more flights and three more aircraft in its third year of operation. All of these flights, Steve Miller said, would have fares that are competitive with Tampa International Airport’s rates.

Plans for international flights and Florida flights would follow.

In an Oct. 17 email to Vice Mayor David Brenner, Piccolo told Brenner “an SRQ-based airline is feasible with the right plan and financial backing.”

“The airport has been in extensive discussions with an individual over the last six to eight months about their plan for a Sarasota-based carrier,” Piccolo said. “He has extensive airline knowledge, and we are assisting wherever we can.”

The Millers have begun to make presentations about the airline in the area.

A Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport study shows that 3.75 million passengers per year could be handled at the airport and numbers have fallen because of passenger leakage to Tampa and Fort Myers.

“Passenger numbers should be three times what it was in 2011 and a local airline would help tremendously,” Steve Miller said.

Sunrise Airlines, Steve Miller said, is evaluating high-volume destinations and destinations that AirTran used to utilize before it left the airport earlier this year.

“We believe this sort of market would prefer one competitive price on an airline dedicated to this market and one that could create local jobs for this market,” said Steve Miller, who explained such an airline could create 400 local jobs that would be a combination of flying, ground operations and office staff.

“This is my husband’s response to ‘Do You SRQ?” Hannah Miller said. “We need the community’s support, and we think this is an airline that would benefit the whole community.”

Steve Miller agreed.

“My experience has always been in startup airlines,” Steve Miller said. “I want to do my part to stimulate jobs in this economy.”


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Currently 20 Responses

  • 1.
  • Dear Steve & Hannah,

    Very best wishes for your Sunrise venture. Happy experiences with Oasis & was saddened by it's end. A service to Gatwick would be great for the UK and I am sure it is in your sights.
    Fond memories of HK & First Union.
    God Bless and a happy "retirement"

    John Arnett
  • John Arnett
    Thu 13th Nov 2014
    at 3:01am
  • 2.
  • SRQ if you have got Steve Miller , you have got the best
    airline maker in the business , worked with him on projects
    in Australia ,and Asia support him to the max
    Sun 20th Jan 2013
    at 11:05pm
  • 3.
  • SRQ<=>PHL gets my vote. If the fare was even more than TPA<=>PHL, no one I know would head to TPA for a cheaper flight because it costs precious time and money to get from SRQ to TPA - it's not without costs ~$70 one way by shuttle and takes about 1hr. My last trip there took 2.5 hrs thanks to an accident. Your plans cannot happen fast enough.
  • Peter Mattei
    Thu 17th Jan 2013
    at 9:39am
  • 4.
  • I think what you are doing here in Sarasota is great! I have been in the airline business for 21 years with Continental Airlines but unfortunatly had to leave due to raising my children as a single parent. But now that that my children are grown I would love to get back into the airline industry and would love the opportunity to work for you and your airline. Please let me know how I could apply with your airline. Welcome to Sarasota!
  • Grissobelle Cancel
    Tue 27th Nov 2012
    at 11:00am
  • 5.
  • I would love to know how to go about coupling out an application for a job with your carrier. I have many years of experience in the airline industry and would love to work for your airline. Please let me know how to apply.
  • stacy kaleugher
    Wed 7th Nov 2012
    at 2:47pm
  • 6.
  • This is the best news! Indy to SRQ roundtrip 10 plus times/year. Flights were always full!!
  • Barb Hockett
    Fri 2nd Nov 2012
    at 9:21am
  • 7.
  • My husband & I (in our 80's) have been flying for 60 years, 25 yrs. to Sarasota. It would be so convenient to fly direct to Philly for us & many family members & friends. Would also draw from eastern PA & Jersey!!
  • Ora Mae Brigidi
    Sun 28th Oct 2012
    at 1:22pm
  • 8.
  • Thanks to you all for your interest in Sunrise Airlines. We have taken into account all your comments. Most of the cities you mentioned are in our plans for non stop service out of SRQ, but if there is anything we need to know please feel free to contact us anytime at: - and we appreciate your response - very encouraging and thank you helping us 'go get em' !
    Steve & Hannah Miller
  • Stephen Miller
    Thu 25th Oct 2012
    at 1:11pm
  • 9.
  • Continental used to fly from EWR to SRQ nonstop, was more expensive than TPA but still abandoned the flights ~ Is there a problem with SRQ airport fees?
  • joan hummert
    Thu 25th Oct 2012
    at 1:06pm
  • 10.
  • SRQ to PVD - Between myself and family - 25 people flying 2 -6 times a year.
  • Tara Booker
    Thu 25th Oct 2012
    at 9:24am
  • 11.
  • Any plans for NYS... Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo?????
  • Dorothy Emmick
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 8:07pm
  • 12.
  • Vegas Baby !
  • George Hayduke
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 5:11pm
  • 13.
  • Use to take 10-12 flights a year Air Tran-Chicago MDW-SRQ. Now Tampa what a drag. A day of travel, rather than 2 1/2 hours. Also tried Delta no direct flights again a day of travel with connections.
  • Cathy DiOrio
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 5:08pm
  • 14.
  • DCA to SRQ and HPN TO SRQ would be great!!
  • Bob Levine
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 4:41pm
  • 15.
  • Steve, check out FNT Or LAN (Michigan) TO SRQ - We travel 6 -10 trips a year and run in to many more who do also.
  • Gary Bender
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 3:48pm
  • 16.
  • NH (MHT) to SRQ at least a dozen times a year! Now using Tampa! But would love to fly direct to SRQ! Go get em!
  • Jacqueline Prizer
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 3:41pm
  • 17.
  • To Toronto or low-cost Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario airports and/or Buffalo/Niagara or Detroit.
  • Hartman Krug
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 3:25pm
  • 18.
  • SRQ to STL (or even Mid America if you throw in a free Metro pass) and back - would keep the wife traveling to see grand baby every other month. And when Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy. Have you considered selling annual passes at a bulk rate for husbands looking to make wives happy?
  • John Wild
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 2:15pm
  • 19.
  • ATL to SRQ round trip, 12-18 trips a year
  • Thomas Hawkins
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 10:36am
  • 20.
  • IND to SRQ & return about 8 to 10 times a year LOVE to see that service !! count the hoosiers in,
  • John Reed
    Wed 24th Oct 2012
    at 8:12am
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