New low cost carrier comes to Grand Strand

Source: John Davies
Source: John Davies

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach International has brought a new low cost carrier onboard.

Canadian based airline WestJet will start service this May. The officials who helped seal the deal say, come this summer, if WestJet flights are full, it could mean a hole in one for the airport and for the Grand Strand.

Monday morning airport officials announced WestJet will offer direct flights to Toronto, Canada.

"We think it's going to do wonders for the market," said Horry County Director of Airports Michael La Pier.

The low cost carrier will fly out of Myrtle Beach twice a week and will offer connections to several Canadian cities.

"97% of their cities can connect through Toronto. So that really opens up the entire county of Canada," said Bill Golden, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday's president.

Canadians travelers mean big business for local tourism. On average they tend to stay longer and spend more money. Golden says they're also big golfers.

"They love to play golf. Eighteen percent per capita. That's the most than any other county," added Golden. Canadians also have a very short golf season, so they travel to play. According to Golden, they take more than a million golf vacations a year.

"We think many more now will come given this new air service," said Golden.

The addition of WestJet is a good sign for the airport too.

"The first thing it does, it adds seats," said La Pier. The number of people flying in and out of Myrtle Beach slipped in 2012. La Pier says the downward trend is because a decline in seat capacity. Recently airport officials announced there will be more than 52,000 seats available  this summer, up 12% from last year.

"This kind of corrects what we saw last year," added La Pier.

WestJet service will run through the summer and into the fall and early winter. Golden says this is a new opportunity to bring in more visitors to the Grand Strand during shoulder season.

The total introductory one-way ticket price for flights from Toronto to Myrtle Beach will be $167.39 Canadian dollars, according to the WestJet news release, or $166.31 in US dollars.

Founded in 1996, WestJet offers scheduled service to 83 destinations in North American, Central American and the Caribbean, the release states.

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