Traffic at Myrtle Beach airport looking up

dbryant@thesunnews.comJune 14, 2013 

— New flights and more seat capacity led to a double-digit percentage increase in the number of arriving passengers at Myrtle Beach International Airport in May, the fourth consecutive month of growth, officials said.

About 91,479 passengers flew into Myrtle Beach last month, a 23 percent increase over the same month last year but still shy of the 96,425 arriving passengers in May 2011, according to airport statistics.

The increases this year come after ongoing declines in passenger numbers last year with the loss of Myrtle Beach-based Direct Air, which abruptly stopped flying and filed for bankruptcy in March 2012, and other cuts to flights and seat capacity.

Through May this year, 293,478 passengers have flown into the airport, up 8 percent from the same five-month period last year.

“This, the airport’s fourth month of year-over-year passenger growth, is a direct result of our airline partners adding seat capacity into the market,” Mike La Pier, Horry County’s director of airports, said in a news release. “It is apparent that the new seat capacity is popular with the flying public, we look forward to welcoming more guests to South Carolina.”

In May, Allegiant Air started its summer flights to four cities including Huntington, W. Va., and Allentown-Lehigh Valley, Pa., and WestJet started serving Myrtle Beach with flights to Canada. WestJet brought 875 passengers into Myrtle Beach during its inaugural month, according to airport statistics.

Spirit Airlines continued to be the busiest carrier in Myrtle Beach, bringing 49,189 passengers into the airport. That’s about 13,000 more passengers than it carried into Myrtle Beach in May 2012. Last month, US Airways was the second busiest carrier, with 20,868 arriving passengers.

In late April, Spirit started serving a new city from Myrtle Beach, Philadelphia, and shifted its D.C. area flights to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Earlier in April, the airport opened a new $118 million terminal that has more gates, more remote check-in kiosks for passengers and new restaurants for the airport including Nacho Hippo and Steak ‘n’ Shake.

The airport had a rough year in 2012, with 742,097 passengers flying into Myrtle Beach, down about 16 percent from 2011 and ending a two-year run of record years.

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

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