MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Allegiant Airlines announced Wednesday seasonal service to three new cities from Myrtle Beach starting in June: Flint, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; and Nashville, Tennessee.
"We're very excited to grow again in beautiful Myrtle Beach," said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant senior vice president of commercial. "There is great demand for travel to the Grand Strand, and we're sure that folks in these three cities will take advantage of our convenient, ultra-low cost, nonstop service to enjoy this sunny destination."
Bud Hafer, manager of airport affairs for Allegiant Airlines, said the fact that Allegiant is mainly a tourist and leisure travel company helped them choose Myrtle Beach as a location for some of these new flights.
The golfing and beaches Myrtle Beach has to offer are the kind of attractions their passengers are looking for.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus and Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune were among the leaders at the press conference Wednesday.
"Well, it means great things for us," said Lazarus, "It means our economy is really picking up. It means the message that we're putting out about Myrtle Beach is really getting out there."
"Anytime we can get a new airline to add nonstop markets to Myrtle Beach, it's fantastic news for anyone wanting to visit but also for the local residents who want to go visit friends and family or conduct business," said Kirk Lovell, MYR spokesperson.
As for what needs to be done to strengthen numbers during the shoulder season, local leaders had some ideas.
"Our goal at the city is to have a stronger relationship with the chamber of commerce and really work hand in hand with them to have more events, more things for people to want to come here in those shoulder seasons," said Bethune.
Lazarus said promoting different festivals and events in the area will help drive more interest to the area during the off-season, giving airlines an opportunity to extend their flights into the shoulder season.
"As we grow our shoulder seasons, as gold makes a comeback, as we add more amenities to our area, the more we'll see people want to be here during the shoulder seasons. So, it's an evolution and it's coming," said Lazarus.
Lovell said a lot goes into researching and figuring out which markets would serve best during what time.
"In 2013, when we started mining to understand this data, we could see there's patterns in different markets and different regions of the United States when people are coming here in droves in our shoulder seasons," said Lovell, "In turn, we've taken that to the airline and say there is a marketing opportunity here."
However, Lovell said service during the shoulder season continues to grow, using WestJet Airlines as an example. He said the airline planned to stop service last year, but changed their mind and decided to stay.
In addition to that, Lovell said seat capacity for April 2018 for Allegiant is up 52 percent over April 2017.
"So, that is significant growth into the shoulder season," said Lovell.
The service to Bishop International Airport in Flint begins on June 6, with one-way fires as low as $58, according to an Allegiant news release. Routes to Louisville begin June 6, with fares as low as $52. Service to Nashville begins June 8, with fares as low as $47.
The new routes will be operated twice a week, the release states.
These new routes expand the total number of Allegiant routes to MYR to 19. The company estimates the routes will bring nearly 20,000 more visitors to Myrtle Beach.
"We are thrilled that Allegiant continues to expand their air service to Myrtle Beach," said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "The addition of Nashville, Flint and Louisville will provide more people with fast, affordable nonstop service to Myrtle Beach where they'll enjoy 60 miles of beaches, golf and endless entertainment. Growing air service will help us welcome more visitors to the Grand Strand, as we strive to reach our goal of 20 million annual visitors by 2020."
The new routes were announced at a news conference at MYR at 10 a.m. Wednesday.