Myrtle Beach next on Southwest Airlines’ radar?

dbryant@thesunnews.comOctober 26, 2012 

First, it was Greenville and Charleston. Now Southwest Airlines has announced it is headed to Charlotte starting next year.

Could Myrtle Beach be next on the airline’s radar?

“We don’t have any news on Myrtle Beach,” Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said last week.

Southwest, which has boosted traffic in Greenville and Charleston since it started serving those cities last year, said this week it would start flying to Charlotte in April replacing AirTran, which Southwest acquired in 2010 and has been busy integrating into its network. Southwest will start serving Charlotte on April 14 with daily flights to Baltimore, Chicago, Orlando and Houston.

“We have a full plate [with integrating Air Tran], nonetheless, we continue to have conversations with the airports that Southwest doesn’t serve,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins wouldn’t say whether Myrtle Beach International Airport is among the airports included in those conversations. Kirk Lovell, marketing director for Myrtle Beach International Airport, also was mum this week which airlines local leaders are courting.

Airport and tourism promoters have stepped up conversations with airlines that already fly to Myrtle Beach and others that they want to serve Myrtle Beach after months of declines in passenger numbers. The airport is amid a $118 million expansion adding a new terminal, parking areas and rental car building.

“We try to meet with ones that strategically make sense,” Lovell said, refusing to say if Southwest is one of them but calling it a “fantastic airline.”

Airlines traditionally start announcing their spring service plans early in the new year.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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