MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - If you ask many people, they'll tell you plane ticket prices are sky high and when you add on bags and seats, it totals to a hefty price. With Labor Day weekend around the corner, and with big holidays soon to follow, it has many people asking, what is the deal with prices here at Myrtle Beach International Airport?
"Anytime we've checked, they've always been cheaper someplace else, and once before when I checked, even Florence was cheaper," said local traveler Shelly.
Shelly's trip to Connecticut cost more than $400, before baggage fees, so when she hears Myrtle Beach International Airport was named the number 9 most affordable airport in the nation, according to Cheapflights.com, she's not buying it. She believes if prices were lower, we'd have more people visiting Myrtle Beach.
So WMBF News asked Airport officials, why do our prices seem so high?
They said, get on a plane and ask the person next to you how much they paid. A national trend is that prices vary between travelers. Travel site Hopper.com found you may pay anywhere between twice and eight times as much as other passengers.
While there is debate for the affordability of our airport, MYR Spokesperson Kirk Lovell says more than half our carriers are low-cost, including Spirit Airlines, which the Hopper.com study found has the most uniform and consistent ticket pricing.
Frequent flyer Joe Cappello usually pays $500-800 for a flight, and his first flight to Myrtle Beach cost him a little over $150 round trip. When it comes to MYR, he's pleased.
"The cost of the ticket was really inexpensive," Cappello said. "The airport is super simple too, you know these small airports, I love being able to get in and out quickly. You walk down here, your bags are ready, so it's really simple."
He's only one of many visitors boosting passenger numbers at MYR, month after month. The month of July saw a 6.57 percent growth compared to last year, so while prices may seem high, ticket sales are soaring. The goal is to continue to head in that direction, so the structure of the airport has to be suitable for more people, parking and planes.
Construction is always a good sign of growth, and that's exactly what we're seeing. Several projects are currently underway at MYR.
In about a month, the entire credit card lot will be complete, opening up a total of nearly 800 parking spaces for you to use. The cost is $7 to park for a full day.
Another project showing a good sign of growth is the $20 million runway rehab project which is one of the most important parts of the airport. This will extend the life of the runway strip by 20 years. This project is happening seven days a week, overnight, so airport officials say it shouldn't impact your flights, and no work will happen over Labor Day weekend. This should be completed in March.
Now, if you travel on a Saturday, you may notice way more activity in the airport. That's because it's the peak travel day for MYR. That brings us to the airport's most anticipated project: the addition of two new gates. The goal is to make for much easier travel.
"When passengers are coming in with those additional gates they'll be able to get to their gate faster, and get off the plane, and get to their final destination, whether it be hotel, beach or playing golf," said Airport Spokesperson Kirk Lovell. "Or, for a passenger leaving, they'll be able to board on time, or catch their connection on the next flight."
While we won't see these gates until next year, Lovell says they're the beginning of more gates to come.
The airport also has plans to match the facade of the old terminal to the new one, but as far as the ticketing area inside the old terminal, that space is still up for grabs; plans have yet to be made.
Holiday Travel Ticket Tips
For Labor Day Weekend, expect the airport to be bustling. This is a good reminder to think about booking for the holidays ahead, which you might want to do now.
While the best time to book a trip is up for debate, cheapair.com says the golden number is 54 days in advance.
The holidays are a bit different. The website is tracking the cheapest trend in ticket prices, during the month of August, since June, which was the best month to book last year.
When it comes to the holidays, MYR officials say, the earlier the better, as seats do fill up.
If you're still looking to take a trip this summer, the website broke down trends. It says the best days to buy are Tuesday and Wednesday.
When are the best days to fly? If you're headed out of MYR, Lovell says peak travel days are Thursday and Saturday.
Travel site Hopper has a new, free online calculator that breaks down fees and compares ticket costs among airlines. This may be a tool you want to use to book your trip: http://www.hopper.com/flights/tools/feecalc/index.html#.U_7WkDKwJcQ