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Study: Airport fees higher in Myrtle Beach

Airlines' cost of doing business from Myrtle Beach International Airport are high compared to other cities -- sometimes twice as much -- and hurting the area's chances of recruiting more flights to more destinations, according to a report released today.

And without more airlines serving the beach, passengers will continue to pay more to fly -- with fares from Myrtle Beach rising 25 percent from 2004 to 2006 -- more than twice the national average of an 11.7 percent increase, the study by aviation consultant The Boyd Group showed.

``The primary mechanism to achieving additional lower fares -- or at the very least a greater availability of the lowest published fares _ will be to create a more -- competitive environment at Myrtle Beach through the recruitment of additional air service,'' according to the report.

But the fees the airport charges airlines to operate hurts its chances of attracting more of them, especially considering the beach already is at a disadvantage because of the extreme seasonality that makes it tough to fill planes in the winter, the study showed.

And airlines, which have gone through a shakeout of the industry in recent years, are watching more closely their costs, including those of doing business in a particular city, the report noted.

Airport officials have said the fees charged to airlines operating from Myrtle Beach are not out of line. Airlines pay for things such as counter space, terminal rent and each time they land a planes.

``The Boyd Group believes that the level of cost differential may place Myrtle Beach International Airport at a disadvantage when attempting to recruit and retain air service,'' the report says. ``This is particularly true given the seasonal and price-sensitive nature of the traffic base at MYR [Myrtle Beach].''

The Boyd Group compared Myrtle Beach's fees to five other airports. The airlines' cost per passenger of doing business is $8.56 in Myrtle Beach; $4.05 in Gulfport, Miss.; $4.65 in Las Vegas; $4.69 in Orlando; $4.06 in Phoenix and $4.83 in Pensacola, Fla.

Mike Boyd will present the entire report at 1:30 p.m. today at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Read more on the study and the reactions to it in The Sun News on Wednesday.