WestJet doubles passenger numbers so far this year thanks to earlier start to seasonal flights

08/04/2014 12:00 AM

08/05/2014 6:19 AM

WestJet has doubled its number of passengers so far this year to Myrtle Beach thanks to an earlier start to the seasonal flights from Toronto, Canada.

WestJet has brought 3,210 passengers to MYR from March through June, according to airport statistics. The Canadian carrier started the flights March 6 -- two months earlier than its inaugural year in 2013 aiming to cater to spring golfers -- and brought 1,668 passengers to Myrtle Beach those two months.

“The ability for passengers to easily get to Myrtle Beach during our shoulder seasons is important for our market, and the Department of Airports was excited to see WestJet start service several months earlier than last year,” airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said.

WestJet’s passenger numbers for May and June are about the same as those months last year: 885 incoming passengers in May (compared to 875 in May 2013) and 657 in June (compared to 571 in June 2013). July passenger numbers won’t be available until mid-August.

Airline officials say the flights are meeting expectations for the carrier’s second year serving Myrtle Beach, even though the passenger numbers are roughly the same as last summer so far. The flights last year did not meet WestJet’s revenue projections, and Horry County ended up paying the carrier the difference -- about $550,000 -- as outlined in a revenue guarantee agreement signed before the carrier started serving Myrtle Beach. Some said the carrier ended up having to heavily discount flights last year.

The revenue guarantee agreement with Horry County was for one year; there’s no revenue agreement for this year. It was the first time Horry County had done such a deal with an airline, and officials said they won’t do it again.

“Myrtle Beach was a slow burn last year, which can happen with a new route,” WestJet spokeswoman Brie Ogle said. “It started slow but the folks down there in Myrtle Beach worked very hard on our behalf, as did their Canadian counterparts in order to grow awareness of the route, which is now performing as expected.”

Last year, WestJet’s best month was August, when it brought 1,005 passengers to Myrtle Beach. The carrier brought 4,636 passengers to Myrtle Beach last year during its six months of service from May through October.

It takes time for travelers to become aware of new flights, Ogle said.

“The route is performing as expected,” she said. “It finished well last year and we are pleased with the numbers. It seems more people are aware of the route and have chosen to fly with us.”

The seasonal flights this year are scheduled to end Oct. 23.

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