A record number of passengers passed through Myrtle Beach International Airport last year thanks to more flights to popular markets and the addition of service to new destinations, officials said.
The 1.8 million passengers in 2015 — which includes arrivals and departures — breaks the 2011 record of roughly 1.7 million, according to airport statistics. The airport narrowly missed breaking the 2011 record in 2014.
1,830,071 Record number of passengers at MYR in 2015
1,759,874 Previous record in 2011
A strong airline industry that’s prompted carriers such as Allegiant Air to expand its service to Myrtle Beach led to the growth, officials said, adding that demand from tourists wanting to come to the Grand Strand also has helped.
“You can’t grow your market unless you have something people want, and people want Myrtle Beach,” airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said. “Carriers continue to do well and add capacity into Myrtle Beach.”
Since 2014, MYR gained nonstop service from 10 markets, including Akron-Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, all in Ohio; Clarksburg, W.Va.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; Orlando-Sanford in Florida, Pittsburgh, Pa., and Syracuse, N.Y.
You can’t grow your market unless you have something people want, and people want Myrtle Beach. Carriers continue to do well and add capacity into Myrtle Beach. Kirk Lovell, spokesman for Myrtle Beach International Airport
Allegiant Air, which has been expanding steadily in Myrtle Beach in recent years, brought nearly 80,000 passengers to Myrtle Beach in 2015 — about 30,000 more than in 2014, according to airport statistics. Allegiant added destinations last year and started some of its seasonal flights earlier than usual in April — a trend that will continue this year with even more flights starting in early April.
Tourism and golf promoters have applauded the expanded offerings at the airport, saying the additional flights and destinations give tourists who don’t want to make that long-haul drive to the beach a way to get here.
“We anticipated a good year with increased capacity, but these numbers exceeded our expectation, which is very encouraging,” Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said last month as the passenger numbers showed the airport on track have a record year. “We’re thrilled to see this come to fruition.”
Because of the overall growth, the airport added more parking last year and now encourages passengers to arrive two hours before their departure to ensure they get parked and through security in time, Lovell said.
916,720 Arriving passengers at MYR in 2015
913,351 Departing passengers at MYR in 2015
Officials expect the growth in passenger numbers to continue this year. Flights to new markets are expected to be announced soon, Lovell said, but declined to give details Thursday.
ViaAir, which tested the Myrtle Beach market briefly near the end of last summer, will return with flights to Beckley, West Virginia with a stop at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Spirit Airlines continues to be the dominant carrier in the market, making up more than half of the overall passengers.
“If the airline industry stays healthy and passengers book we should see some nice, strong growth” this year, Lovell said.