Spirit Airlines will offer a new destination out of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport starting Wednesday with a sold-out flight to Myrtle Beach, the first time the airport has had a commercial nonstop flight to South Carolina, says Ted Kitchens, the airport’s director.
On May 5, Spirit will end its seasonal flights to Tampa and Fort Myers.
“It will still give a beach destination throughout the summertime as well as a vacation destination that is very family-friendly with lots of outdoor activities,” Kitchens said.
Spirit will continue to offer daily flights to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. The same number of flights will be taking off from the airport with daily flights to Myrtle Beach. Spirit Airlines is the largest carrier at the Myrtle Beach International Airport, according to the Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina.
The new destination comes as Spirit, along with other carriers, such as JetBlue, have canceled hundreds of flights across the nation in the past two weeks. JetBlue is now trying to buy Spirit Airlines for $3.6 billion, competing with a bid from Frontier Airlines, which announced a proposed merger with Spirit in February in a deal valued at $6.6 billion.
Kitchens said the peak of cancellations happened during spring break and were caused by pandemic-related staffing shortages and “unusually strong and persistently bad weather in Florida,” he wrote in an email to the Union Leader. Two weeks ago, Spirit saw an “unusually high number of cancellations into Manchester.”
“Since they began operations in October, Spirit’s cancellation rate is in line with the rest of the airlines serving the airport,” he wrote.
Spirit will fly six daily flights from April 20 through May 5, Kitchens said. A similar schedule during winter break was successful.
“There is certainly pent up demand,” Kitchens said. “All of our other airlines are looking strong.”
The other carriers at the Manchester airport are American, Southwest and United. The airport is ready to accommodate any onslaught of travelers, Kitchens said.
“If everything works out the way we want it to work out we will be back to the way it was pre-pandemic only for that two-week period,” he said. “It will drop off after spring break because we still don’t have that business travel back yet.”
Scott Milne, president of Milne Travel, an independent travel management company with a location in Manchester, said Spirit likely picked Myrtle Beach because of its low-cost tourism draw.
He said demand for travel is at its highest in the past 10 years.
“It is extraordinarily busy,” Milne said.
Milne called the recent massive flight delays and cancellations over the past two weeks unprecedented. He said travelers should be fairly compensated for the disruptions, especially given the $40 billion in federal aid.
In terms of air travel, Europe is a popular destination right now as well as destinations in the U.S.
“We are seeing people show up here who haven’t traveled in two years,” Milne said. Some are worried about inflation, but many have more discretionary money set aside for trips. Often, the trips involved multiple generations of families.
Spirit is running a “Spiritaneous” promotion where someone can win four round-trip tickets from Manchester to Myrtle Beach with a four-night stay included at the Island Vista Resort in Myrtle Beach. Guests pack their bags and hope to win the tickets a few hours before the new flights. The contest will happen between 1:30 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
The airport saw nearly 50% more passengers last year than in 2020 but still has a long way to go to surpass 2019 numbers. The airport is about 75% back to normal, Kitchens said.
January saw 74,982 passengers, up 170% over January 2021.
February saw 87,768 passengers, up 181.6% over February 2021.
“We need the business travel to come back,” Kitchens said. “That is what is holding us back as a market and region. The whole New England region is falling behind business travel coming back.”