Myrtle Beach International Airport has been busier during the first half of the year than it was during the same period last year thanks to new flights on carriers such as Allegiant Air.
About 417,831 passengers flew into the airport from January through June, up about 7 percent compared to the first six months in 2013, according to statistics released Friday by the airport. After declines in January and February compared 2013, passenger numbers have been up every month since. MYR had its busiest May ever, as well as its busiest March and April in the past six or seven years.
In June, 105,108 passengers flew into the airport, a jump of 9 percent over the same month last year -- largely because of growth in traffic on Allegiant Air, which established a temporary hub here for the summer and doubled the number of destinations it serves from MYR in late May.
“It’s definitely because of additional capacity in the market” including new nonstop markets, airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said of the increase in passenger numbers in June.
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Officials credit the trend upwards with the additional flights, seasonal flights starting earlier than usual this year and an overall improvement in the airline industry that has led carriers to expand.
The airport has and is getting a number of upgrades, in part to keep up with growing demand. A $118 million terminal opened in April 2013, new parking spaces were added in early summer and more are on the way and work is set to begin later this year to improve the runway.
“The continued growth at Myrtle Beach International Airport is the direct result of a strong vacation destination and a healthy aviation industry,” Horry County’s director of airports Pat Apone said in a news release.
With service to four new destinations, Allegiant’s passenger numbers soared in June. About 15,768 Allegiant passengers flew into Myrtle Beach last month -- up from 7,844 in June 2013, according to airport numbers. In late May, Allegiant added flights to four new destinations: Lexington, Ky.; Syracuse, N.Y., Columbus, Ohio, and Cincinnati.
“Myrtle Beach flights have been great,” Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said. “We have been super happy.”
The Allegiant flights are seasonal and will end in late summer, and Wheeler anticipates the popularity of the flights to continue through the season.
Airport officials expect the growth in passenger numbers to continue.