Myrtle Beach will keep some nonstop flights to Reagan National in Washington, D.C., after all

dbryant@thesunnews.comMay 22, 2014 

Waiting passengers watch at Myrtle Beach International Airport.

THE SUN NEWS FILE PHOTO

Myrtle Beach won’t completely lose nonstop flights to Washington Reagan National Airport after all.

American Airlines, which announced in January that Myrtle Beach was one of about a dozen cities to lose the coveted route because of its merger with US Airways, will keep flying nonstop to DCA from MYR on Saturdays and Sundays. The daily service will end June 18, with the weekend-only service starting June 21, according to Kirk Lovell, spokesman for Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Lovell said local officials lobbied to keep the service because of the demand from residents in the Washington, D.C., area who want to travel to the Grand Strand. Myrtle Beach was able to make it work on the weekends because there isn’t as much demand on those days from the many business travelers to D.C., he said.

“There is strong demand from people in the district to get to Myrtle Beach,” Lovell said.

That’s what led American to keep the weekend service, spokesman Kent Powell said.

“Customer demand. We saw an opportunity to continue service there on days where there is peak demand,” he said.

Myrtle Beach was scheduled to lose the flights this year after American Airlines-US Airways agreed to give up slots, or takeoffs and landing rights, at Washington Reagan and LaGuardia as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to allow the two carriers to combine to form the world’s largest airline.

Though the weekend service will help, it doesn’t cushion the blow of losing the daily flights, said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Weekend service is helpful, especially for summer travelers who tend to stay longer, but we will certainly feel the impact of losing daily nonstop service from DCA this year,” he said. “The Baltimore-Washington, D.C., market is a good market for families, couples, young professionals and golfers, but we’ve only scratched the surface there. Travelers in that region have three major airports and easy access to every resort destination in the U.S., so offering daily, nonstop affordable air service is necessary for optimal results.”

The flights to DCA from Myrtle Beach had been growing in popularity. US Airways, now American, flies from Myrtle Beach to DCA year-round, but increased those flights to daily during the summer last year for the first time. They scaled back after the busy summer season, which is typical in Myrtle Beach’s seasonal market.

Myrtle Beach travelers can still get to D.C. through connecting flights on American or Delta, or take Spirit Airlines to nearby Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

American’s weekend nonstop flights to DCA are scheduled to end around Labor Day, Lovell said.

“The goal is to get them to keep it year-round,” he said. “We don’t want it to go away.”

Dean said he is hoping demand for MYR in D.C. will make the case for the nonstop flights to continue.

“We remain hopeful that our broad appeal to travelers in that region and our continued advertising presence will keep load factors high and give the carrier good reason to maintain weekend service for now, and perhaps resume daily nonstop service in the future,” he said.

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