Myrtle Beach International Airport

Closing the WestJet Deal

By Paul Gable

Horry County Council members approved a method for paying WestJet the approximately $583,000 it owes the Canadian airline from a deal approved by council last February.

The payment will come from accommodations tax revenue the county receives, called holdback funds, which council personally directs the expenditure of.

Hopefully council learned a lesson about attempting to buy business from this debacle.

Guaranteeing an airline a profit on a new route to Myrtle Beach is not the way to attempt to justify the need for the new passenger terminal the county has already built.

The need for the new passenger terminal was justified based on faulty increased passenger projections. That was obvious back in early 2008 when council approved building the terminal.

But, I am told there are other problems. Apparently there needs to be some changes made with landing and other fees if the airport is to grow traffic.

This is still an expensive airport to fly out of.

I spoke with a friend recently who visited Paris with his wife in the early fall.

The cost of a round trip ticket from Myrtle Beach to Paris and back was $1,000 per person more expensive than a round trip ticket from Charleston to Paris and back. So he drove the 90 miles to Charleston and saved $2,000 total on the flights.

There seem to be basic problems with the business model at Myrtle Beach International Airport that can’t be solved by throwing county tax dollars around.

When the new terminal was being debated, I remember hearing how thousands of new passengers would be flying into Myrtle Beach to visit the Hard Rock Theme Park. That worked out real well. Self delusion is never in short supply in Horry County.

Passenger numbers aren’t calculated on wishes, but rather on destinations the public wants to fly to. It’s time the county learned this lesson.



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