Passenger numbers bounced back at MYR in 2013, officials expect momentum to continue this year

dbryant@thesunnews.comJanuary 13, 2014 

More flights and available seats led to more passengers at Myrtle Beach International Airport last year compared to 2012, though the numbers are still shy of the record-setting 2011, according to airport statistics.

About 833,568 passengers flew into MYR in 2013, about 12 percent more than in 2012, which was a disappointing year that broke a trend of back-to-back record years for the airport. In 2011, a record 881,694 passengers flew into Myrtle Beach.

In 2013, airlines such as US Airways and Spirit Airlines either added destinations, used bigger planes or started their flights earlier in the year -- all factors that led to an overall 13 percent increase in seat capacity for MYR in 2013. With more seats, more passengers had the chance to come here. Canadian carrier WestJet also started serving Myrtle Beach in May.

Airport officials say improvement in the airline industry nationally helped lead to the boost in Myrtle Beach, and they expect the momentum to continue in 2014.

“Due to the fact that Myrtle Beach, S.C., is a popular destination and tourism demand remains strong, Myrtle Beach International Airport was the recipient of additional capacity,” airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said. “Because of market popularity, additional seat capacity passenger volumes at Myrtle Beach International Airport increased.”

Spirit Airlines remained the most popular carrier in Myrtle Beach, bringing in 430,957 passengers in 2013 -- more than half of all the passengers arriving at MYR and 23 percent more passengers than it brought in during 2012.

Airport officials expect passenger numbers to continue to grow in 2014. Canadian carrier WestJet, which started serving Myrtle Beach in May, has said it will resume service in March aiming to get an early start on the season.

WestJet carried 4,636 passengers into Myrtle Beach during its six months of service in 2013. Its projected revenue level fell short, leaving Horry County to pay the carrier roughly $551,000 to make up for the shortfall through a revenue agreement signed before the carrier started service.

“In 2014, Myrtle Beach International Airport is hopeful that airlines will continue to add capacity into the area’s most popular markets, helping drive passenger volumes to new heights,” Lovell said.

MYR also is expected to get a new airport director this year following the firing of Mike LaPier in September. About 63 people had applied for the Horry County director of airports job by Friday morning, the last day to submit an application, Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said. County Administrator Chris Eldridge will review the applications and interview candidates, though there’s no timetable to have a director on board, Bourcier said.

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

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