Passenger numbers up again at Myrtle Beach International Airport

dbryant@thesunnews.comOctober 17, 2013 

Passenger numbers at Myrtle Beach International Airport continued their upward trend for the eighth consecutive month in September, but didn’t set any records this time.

About 72,281 passengers flew into Myrtle Beach in September, up 15 percent from September 2012 but still shy of the 73,718 incoming passengers in September 2011, according to airport statistics released this week.

The airport, which had a rough 2012 with a 16 percent decline in incoming passengers, has rebounded this year, recording its busiest August ever and second busiest June.

Carriers such as Spirit Airlines, which carries roughly half the passengers at the Myrtle Beach airport, have added flights or destinations, leading to the increases in passenger numbers this year, officials say.

“The majority of airlines serving the Myrtle Beach International Airport experienced year-over-year passenger increases,” Pat Apone, interim airports director, said in a news release. “This, our eighth consecutive month of passenger growth, is the direct result of increased seat capacity, very affordable airfares and a great destination.”

Through September this year, about 675,098 passengers have flown into the airport, up 13 percent compared to the same period last year but down from the 719,696 passengers who flew in during that period in the record-setting 2012.

Through September this year, Spirit has brought 350,449 passengers into Myrtle Beach, slightly more passengers than Spirit brought to Myrtle Beach in all of 2012, according to airport statistics.

Spirit started some of its seasonal flights earlier this year aiming to help make up the void left by Myrtle Beach-based Direct Air, which abruptly shut down and filed for bankruptcy in March 2012. Spirit also added two destinations, Baltimore-Washington and Philadelphia and used bigger planes with more seats.

The beach’s newest carrier, WestJet, had its second weakest month in September since starting flights to Myrtle Beach in May. It brought 728 passengers into Myrtle Beach from Toronto, Canada, in September, second only to the 571 passengers it brought in June. The seasonal flights are scheduled to end Oct. 23. From May through September, WestJet brought 3,919 passengers into Myrtle Beach, according to airport statistics.

The WestJet flights haven’t been as profitable as the company expected, and Horry County could end up owing the carrier as much as $570,000 to make up for the shortfall, as negotiated in a revenue guarantee agreement entered into before the first flights.

The airport, which is owned by Horry County, 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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