Where would you travel if an airline handed you one million free miles?
For the Neusime family of Wisconsin, their favorite destination will be an annual trip to Myrtle Beach.
That’s what Ronald and Peggy Neusime said Thursday after Spirit Airlines gave Ronald one million free miles for being the one millionth passenger to fly through the Myrtle Beach International Airport this year.
Asked if they would use the miles to go anywhere else, Peggy said, “I guess, but we like coming here.”
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Ronald and his wife, daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren were also given VIP passes to Legends in Concert, tickets to numerous attractions along the Grand Strand including golf courses, game cards for Dave and Busters at Broadway at the Beach, spa treatments, restaurant gift certificates, and a $100 shopping card.
The family said they might not have enough time during this trip to take advantage of all their winnings.
“We’ll be back, probably next month,” said Peggy Neusime.
Welcoming the one millionth passenger on Nov. 2 was a major milestone for the airport, which saw 972,000 passengers during 2016. Last year’s numbers saw an increase in seat capacity by 20 percent, the airport said.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said the county worked with their airport staff, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and City of Myrtle Beach to achieve this milestone, along with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who brought $80 million in federal dollars to the airport.
The airport was turned over to the county in 1993 and the international terminal opened in 1996.
“This day was a long time coming, and what an epic event for our community to think that we used to fly into the Myrtle Beach Jetport, we now fly into Myrtle Beach International Airport with millions of people coming in,” said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes credited the county and airport efforts in expanding airline services, and the chamber for increasing the number of passengers yearly through national marketing efforts funded by the tourism development fee (TDF).
“The county had a vision in doing this and it has been a great asset to this community,” Rhodes said. “But we could not have done this, promoted this, without the tourism dollars that the city created called the TDF fund.”
“We created that to give us the funds to promote and advertise Myrtle Beach outside of this area. We handed that task over to the Chamber of Commerce. Because of the job they’ve done, we are able to welcome the one millionth visitor (this year) to Myrtle Beach,” Rhodes said.