Weather-related flight cancellations contribute to decline in passenger numbers in Myrtle Beach last month

02/16/2014 12:00 AM

02/14/2014 5:51 PM

Canceled flights because of winter weather and the loss of year-round service on United Airlines led to a slight decline in passenger numbers at Myrtle Beach International Airport in January.

About 30,312 passengers flew into Myrtle Beach last month, about 300 fewer than flew into the airport in January 2013, according to airport statistics.

Airport officials blamed the weather that has caused thousands of flight cancellations around the country this winter.

“January numbers would have been good if not for the numerous cancellations due to severe weather impacting passenger travel. If operations would have been normal, the airport would have been able to easily report passenger levels that exceeded January 2013,” airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said.

This also is the first winter since 2011 that United has not served Myrtle Beach. The carrier usually flies to Newark, N.J., year-round, but scaled back those flights to seasonal this winter, ending service in November with plans to resume the flights March 6. In January 2013, 771 passengers flew into Myrtle Beach on United.

“We reduced the schedule for the winter season because the financial performance of the flights didn’t meet our expectations,” United spokeswoman Mary Clark said.

Airlines typically scale back flights or stop serving Myrtle Beach during the slower winter months, then resume in the spring or summer for the busy tourism season. Before United and Continental merged, United didn’t fly to Myrtle Beach during the winter.

“We are seeing United Airlines return to their previous operating schedules at MYR,” Lovell said.

Weather-related flight cancellations have continued into February, including a number of them last week as a winter storm slammed the East Coast. Lovell isn’t sure yet how much that will hurt February’s passenger numbers.

Several routes on Spirit Airlines resumed last week, including daily service to Chicago and Detroit, as well as flights to Baltimore, Niagara Falls and Latrobe, Pa. Spirit makes up more than half of the airport’s overall traffic each year.

In 2013, 833,568 passengers flew into MYR, about 12 percent more than in 2012 but still shy of the record number in 2011.

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