MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Flights going in and out of Myrtle Beach International Airport have more seats on them than ever before, leading the airport to think this could be a record year for the number of passengers flying through, said Kirk Lovell, spokesperson for MYR.
For the first two months of the year, the number of passengers at MYR has gone up seven percent from last year and 12 percent from five years ago, Lovell said.
He said this could be the airport's biggest year yet between increased seat capacity and more destinations.
"I've lived here almost two years and I've seen a lot of growth," said Roxanne Mills, who lives in Conway.
Several airlines have added more destinations and also increased the size of planes for certain flights, Lovell said.
The airport is looking to add more dining options, specifically quick service restaurants, next year, Lovell said. He said people are requesting a Dunkin' Donuts. He thinks the airport would like to see one come in, although it still has to go through the approval process, which includes Horry County Council's approval.
"Dunkin' Donuts would be awesome," Mills said. "It's easy to just get a coffee and get a donut or get a little light sandwich or something like that. You don't have to get a whole meal."
While Mills said she thinks the airport's growth is positive, she knows it could change the travel experience.
"As the airport gets bigger, the parking gets trickier, it's a little longer to get through TSA and things like that," she said.
The number of cars parking at the airport is growing at an even faster rate than the number of passengers traveling through, Lovell said.
"I think it is packed," said Amanda Belesky, of Murrells Inlet, after parking in the credit card lot. "There are so many more cars than I'm used to being here, but it is getting to be the summer months, so I imagine it's going to get filled up a lot quicker."
The airport put in an overflow lot last year to help accommodate more cars.
Lovell said it could open for the first time as early as late May.
The overflow lot will be priced the same as the credit card lot, which costs $9 a day. It will be used as needed.
Lovell said parking at the credit card lot has been increasing the most because it's a cheaper option.
He also said the rise in the number of parked cars shows more locals are traveling through the airport than ever before.
Before 2012, 35 percent of the airport's traffic was made up of locals, but now they account for 45 percent, Lovell said.
The airport's revenue from parking is also increasing. Parking fees rose last year, but Lovell said the addition of more non-stop flights year-round as well as flights to major hubs have contributed the most to higher parking revenue.
Due to the increased passenger volume that's expected in the coming months, Lovell said the airport is suggesting people arrive two hours prior to their scheduled departure time.
However, taxi drivers said they're not seeing the results of the airport's growth.
"Things are tanking for us," said Glen Pellerin, a driver for Barefoot Taxi. "I used to pull in here and the holding area right here would be all the way down to the back and all the way back up to the front with taxis. We have about one quarter of the taxis left. People are getting out of the business."
Pellerin spends most of his day waiting.
"I sat out here yesterday for 12 hours and got three rides," he said. "Last year, I would've done 10, 12 rides."
Pellerin said he has witness the airport's growth as a taxi driver for ten years.
"The new terminal is helping a lot," he said. "They've added on flights and it's a lot busier."
However, he said some of the extra potential customers are using ride-sharing companies instead of taxis.
"I'm actually looking at doing something else for a living," Pellerin said. "I think this time next year there won't be half of these cabs here."