More Myrtle Beach area seasonal flights set to start

dbryant@thesunnews.comMarch 3, 2014 

The new Myrtle Beach International Airport terminal officially opens on Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan / jblackmon@thesunnews.com

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

Seasonal flights from two cities to Myrtle Beach resume this week as some carriers continue to start service earlier aiming to get a jump on the summer tourism season.

WestJet returns Thursday for its second season with twice weekly service to Toronto, Canada. The carrier is starting about two months earlier than its inaugural service last year aiming to catch golfers coming to the beach.

Also Thursday, United resumes its flights to Newark, N.J., which had been year-round until the carrier scaled back this winter and converted them to seasonal.

Spirit Airlines, which carries roughly half the passengers at Myrtle Beach International Airport every year, will resume service to Philadelphia on March 20 and Charleston, W.Va., on March 22, both of those are about two weeks earlier than previous years. Other seasonal flights on Spirit to five cities resumed in February.

Another airline, Allegiant Air, is set to return in May with service to four cities. Fort Wayne, Ind., and Youngstown, Ohio will start May 1, while Huntington, W.Va.; and Allentown/Lehigh, Pa., start May 2.

Tourism promoters have said that the flights resuming earlier is a good sign for the tourism season.

Officials say WestJet should have a more successful second year in Myrtle Beach than its first, when Horry County had to pay the carrier roughly $550,000 to cover revenue shortfalls, as negotiated in a revenue guarantee agreement signed before WestJet started service. There is no revenue guarantee for WestJet this year.

“The early start is an effort on our part to capture golfers who go to Myrtle Beach in the latter stages of the winter to get a jump on their season,” WestJet spokeswoman Brie Ogle said. “I don’t know how your winter went, but we took a bit of a beating up here this year, so golfers and other fair-weather seekers will be eager to head [for] warmer waters.”

WestJet carried 4,636 passengers into Myrtle Beach during its six months of service from May through October last year, according to airport statistics.

“Typically, as markets mature, performance improves and as this is WestJet’s second season, one would expect growth in passenger volumes,” airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said.

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

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