MYRTLE BEACH — More passengers flew into Myrtle Beach International Airport last month than any other June except the record-setting June 2011, according to airport statistics.
About 96,696 passengers arrived through the gates last month, up about 14 percent from June 2012 and the second-busiest June behind 2011, when a June record of 108,722 passengers arrived in Myrtle Beach.
It’s also the fifth consecutive month of passenger growth after a 16 percent decline in 2012.
“The airline industry as a whole is getting stronger when compared to recent years,” Mike La Pier, Horry County Director of Airports, said in a news release. “As a result of a stronger industry, Myrtle Beach International Airport recorded its second best performing June in airport history.”
For the first half of 2013, about 390,174 passengers flew into the airport, up about 10 percent from the same six months last year but still short of the 417,490 arriving passengers during the first six months of the record-setting 2011. But it’s up slightly from the first six months of 2010, when 385,442 flew into the airport.
Last year, officials blamed the decline in passenger numbers on cuts in capacity and the loss of Myrtle Beach-based Direct Air, which abruptly shut down and filed for bankruptcy in March 2012.
Some airlines have added destinations this year or started their seasonal flights earlier than usual. The airport also welcomed a new carrier to the beach, WestJet, which flies to Canada. WestJet carried 875 passengers into the beach during its debut month of May and 571 passengers in June, according to airport statistics.
The airport moved into a new $118 million, more spacious terminal in April. The new 274,000-square-foot terminal has new gates, more remote check-in kiosks for passengers and new restaurants including Nacho Hippo and Steak ‘n’ Shake.
“We have room to grow our airport traffic thanks to the new terminal,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said.
Though most visitors drive to get to the Grand Strand, Kruea said that increasing the number of folks who fly to get here can help grow the area’s tourism.
Spirit Airlines, which carries roughly half the passengers at the airport each year, brought 50,553 travelers into Myrtle Beach in June. US Airways, the second most popular carrier at the beach, brought 20,260 passengers into Myrtle Beach last month.
Kruea said he expects the growth in passenger numbers to continue.
“I think [June’s numbers are] a sign that a turnaround is well underway,” he said. “They seem to be recovering this summer...Things are looking up.”
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