Lakeland Linder Regional Airport is going international. The airport will add a U.S. Customs office in the second quarter of next year.
The airport will spend $300,000 to convert an old unused terminal building into the facility. The office will allow aircraft to fly directly into Linder from other countries.
"Huge hassle," said John Leenhouts with the Sun 'n Fun organization about not having a customs office at the airport now. He flies to the Bahamas several times a year. On his way back, he has to stop at the St. Lucie County International Airport first.
Bob Knight with Knight Industrial Equipment experiences the same thing about trying to get back from the Bahamas. A trip that should take less than 90 minutes takes much longer.
"But whenever I leave Freeport to come back, that becomes 2 1/2 to three hours," he said.
John Leenhouts is looking forward to the customs office. "This is so much simpler and this allows people outside the country the come in that normally couldn't," he said.
Eventually, the airport hopes having customer services will allow it to attract international cargo flights and more.
"Charters, for example, from South America or from Europe with 150 passengers on board - that's really our ultimate goal,” said airport director Gene Conrad.