Myrtle Beach airport traffic continues upward trend

dbryant@thesunnews.comAugust 18, 2013 

Passenger numbers continued their upward trend in July at Myrtle Beach International Airport, in part thanks to a jump in traffic on the beach’s most popular carrier.

About 107,598 passengers flew into the airport last month, up about 16 percent over July 2012, according to airport statistics. A big chunk of that came from a 28 percent increase in traffic on Spirit Airlines, which carried 57,645 passengers into Myrtle Beach in July -- roughly 12,540 more passengers than in July 2012. The beach’s second most popular carrier, US Airways, carried roughly 3,600 more passengers in July than it did a year ago.

New destinations and bigger planes this year have led to the jump in Spirit’s passenger numbers, spokeswoman Misty Pinson said in an email.

“We added two new nonstop routes to/from MYR: Baltimore/Washington and Philadelphia,” she said. “In addition we increased the size of our planes from our 145-seat Airbus A319 to our 178-seat Airbus A320 on most MYR routes.”

The positive trend in overall passenger numbers is a good step for the airport, officials say, but the numbers are still shy of July 2011, when 124,762 passengers flew into Myrtle Beach.

Passenger numbers dropped by 16 percent in 2012 -- ending a two-year streak of record years -- after cuts by airlines and the loss of Myrtle Beach-based Direct Air, which abruptly stopped flying and filed for bankruptcy in March 2012.

“While passenger volumes were below previous years, it is a step in the right direction for Myrtle Beach International Airport,” Mike La Pier, director of Horry County airports, said in a news release.

Officials have credited the positive trend with additional flights into Myrtle Beach, some airlines starting seasonal flights earlier in the year to help make up the loss of Direct Air and an overall improvement in the airline industry.

Myrtle Beach also added a new carrier this summer, WestJet, which flies to Toronto, Canada. WestJet brought 740 passengers into Myrtle Beach in July, according to airport statistics. That’s up from the 571 in June but shy of the 875 passengers it brought in May, its first month of service to Myrtle Beach.

Through July this year, about 497,772 passengers flew into the airport, up about 11 percent from the same period last year.

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.

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

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