Tourism

August 18, 2014

Myrtle Beach still trying to regain flights to Washington, D.C.

Travelers who caught the mention of possible service between Myrtle Beach and Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., returning on startup carrier People Express this week shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Travelers who caught the mention of possible service between Myrtle Beach and Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., returning on startup carrier People Express this week shouldn’t get their hopes up.

The carrier, which launched this summer, doesn’t have Myrtle Beach on its radar right now, spokesman Thomas Becher said. Some news reports mentioned that the carrier might add service between MYR and Washington, D.C., if it secures the in-demand slots at Reagan, but that was part of the carrier’s older plan, which has shifted to now focus on serving cities from a base at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, he said.

“A previous start-up plan (2012 timeframe) for PEOPLExpress included that possibility, but since the focus shifted to serving cities from a base at Newport News, there are no active plans to expand to MYR or serve slot-controlled Reagan airport,” Becher said. “The focus is on the first batch of destinations (completed this month) before looking at future expansion plans.”

People Express, resurrecting the name of the popular carrier in the 1980s, launched this summer with flights to destinations such as Boston; Newark, N.J., and Pittsburgh. Service to Atlanta started Aug. 1, with two more cities – St. Petersburg, Fla., and New Orleans – coming online in late August.

People Express does have indirect ties to Myrtle Beach. Vision Airlines, which served Myrtle Beach in 2012, provides the planes and operates the flights for People Express. Vision only served Myrtle Beach for one summer after problems with day-long delays and little ramp-up time to promote the flights to potential travelers.

Myrtle Beach International Airport lost daily service to Reagan as a result of the US Airways/American Airlines merger, though weekend service has continued. 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.

The loss of daily nonstop flights to DC has been a blow to MYR travelers, and demand from the DC area to Myrtle Beach is strong, local officials have said. 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.

“Regaining nonstop air service from Washington DCA to Myrtle Beach International Airport is important to both business and vacation travelers,” airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said. “The ability to conveniently access the nation’s capitol is a top priority for domestic and international markets.”

Lovell said airport officials are always courting airlines on the strengths of the Myrtle Beach market, and regaining the daily service between Myrtle Beach and Reagan is a priority.

Lovell declined to say whether Myrtle Beach is talking with People Express about expanding to MYR, saying officials don’t name the carriers they are talking with because of the competitive nature of air service development.

“As air service is important to our market and commerce in general, the Department of Airports remains in regular communication with its airline partners and target carriers,” Lovell said.

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