SARASOTA-BRADENTON- A milestone was celebrated for one airline at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport Thursday morning.

Passengers flying Allegiant Airlines Thursday morning from SRQ to Pittsburgh were greeted at their gate with cookies and balloons but what they didn’t know was there was an even bigger surprise in store for them.

Passenger, Mike Ruse said, “Going home for my buddy’s wedding and I got some free cookies so it’s kind of nice.”

“Some of you may be wondering what’s happening today, why we’re celebrating, well we have reached 40 million passengers in and out of Florida,” said Zack Kramer, Public Relations Specialist for Allegiant Air.

SRQ adopted Allegiant in April; Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Mark Stuckey said since then, profits for the airport have taken flight.

“Our numbers have turned around, we’ve had an 8% increase in traffic in April, we had a 16% in May, 23% in June, 30% in July, and 25% last month,” he said.

The airline has helped transform SRQ into a debt–free airport.

Kramer said,”We have service from Sarasota–Bradenton. Those are Pittsburgh, the flight you’re about to go on, Indianapolis in Cincinnati and we’ve really enjoyed an outstanding partnership with everyone here in the community.”

Thursday, the airline made passenger’s flights debt-free too.

Kramer said,”We want to let you know that this entire flight is going to be refunded. Everyone is getting their money back.”

“I feel like I just hit the lottery,” said passenger, James Fasta.

It was a purchase unexpectedly returned to passenger’s wallets like Fasta’s.

“I was just going about my day, I’m looking forward to my trip back home to see my family and when they made the announcement I was like, ‘…what?’ The first thing I did was I called my wife,” he said, “Now she’ll spend $200 or $300..or whatever we paid. I don’t even know what I paid, but I know it was free.”

Stuckey said in the midst of a new fiscal year, starting Monday, SRQ will lower landing fees by 50% for all airlines.