MYRTLE BEACH — The number of passengers at Myrtle Beach International Airport increased in March for the second consecutive month as some airlines started seasonal routes earlier this year, according to the airport.
About 64,228 passengers flew into the airport in March, up about 1 percent from March 2012, according to airport statistics.
For the first three months of the year, 133,440 passengers flew into the airport -- about 600 more arriving passengers than the same three months last year.
The increases in passenger numbers during February and March come after a tough year for the airport in 2012 with a 16 percent drop in passengers because of the loss of Myrtle Beach-based Direct Air and cuts to destinations and frequency of flights on other airlines.
With new service on tap and airlines planning to ramp up for the summer in the coming weeks, Mike La Pier, Horry County’s director of airports, expects the growth to continue.
“We anticipate passenger volumes to continue increasing over previous year as airport prepares for increased seat capacity and additional service from incumbent carriers in the coming months,” he said in an email.
This year, the airport has gained back some of the seat capacity it lost last year.
Spirit Airlines, which carries half the passengers each year at the airport, started some of its seasonal flights earlier than usual in February and March and added destinations including Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Flights to those two cities kick off Thursday.
While Myrtle Beach already has service to Philadelphia, tourism and golf promoters have touted the addition.
“It’s extremely exciting for us to have Spirit continue to invest in Myrtle Beach with nonstop service to Philadelphia International Airport,” Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release. “Their continued commitment in the area is indicative of Myrtle Beach’s position as a world-class, value-driven destination with great appeal for airlines and visitors alike.”
A new airline to Myrtle Beach, Canadian-based WestJet, will start flying nonstop routes twice a week to Myrtle Beach from Toronto Pearson International Airport on May 2.
Earlier this month, the new 274,000-square-foot terminal at the airport opened with more gates, more remote check-in kiosks for passengers and new restaurants for the airport including Nacho Hippo and Steak ‘n’ Shake.
The $118 million expansion also included a new rental car building and parking.
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