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Cheap fares to Myrtle Beach coming as airlines fill the void

By William K. Wolfrum,
Staff Writer

As 2005 came to an end, the Myrtle Beach tourism industry was reeling from the news that Hooters Air was going to cease being a major carrier for the Grand Strand area. The restaurant-born airline canceled Myrtle Beach flights from Las Vegas and five other mostly northeastern cities.

But as 2006 ends it's a different story, with carriers adding direct flights to Myrtle Beach.

Southern Skyways will fly in from Charleston, W.Va., twice a week from March 2 to Labor Day, taking advantage of the Strand's prime season, with prices starting at $99 each way. The lowest round-trip fares at the time of the announcement were $369, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.

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"We definitely took a hit last spring with Hooters pulling out," said Carson Courage of Myrtle Beach Travel. "We're a seasonal business and the loss of the low-priced trips really hurt us. This will be great for us, because we've always been a fly-to market for golfers."

The Southern Skyways flights will leave Cincinnati Mondays and Fridays at 9 a.m., arrive in Charleston at 9:45 a.m. and take off for the 75-minute flight to Myrtle Beach at 10:30 a.m.

"Myrtle Beach is a major golf and beach destination without any nonstop air service to West Virginia," said Kent Elsbree, president of Southern Skyways. "Myrtle Beach is 'the beach' for West Virginians, and we expect the flights to be very popular.

"There's also a fairly large population of retirees from West Virginia who now reside in Myrtle Beach with no easy way to visit friends and relatives back home."

Myrtle Beach will also be getting more traffic via Myrtle Beach Direct. The airline is planning service from Niagara Falls, Pittsburgh and Newark, N.J., reopening the Strand to golfers from the Northeast and tapping the Toronto market as well.

"We feel there's a large market to pull from," Myrtle Beach Direct CEO Judy Tull said. She told The Amherst Record the flights will be competitively priced.

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Courage said he believes discount airlines will do well focusing on the Myrtle Beach market.

"We're a value destination, so people aren't going to want a golf package for $200 then have to spend $800 on airfare," he said. "I think the mistake Hooters made was flying in from Atlanta and from the Bahamas and competing with other airlines.

"With these [airlines] focusing on places like Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Canada, I think they'll really fill a void in coverage."

December 12, 2006

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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