MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A record number of passengers traveled through Myrtle Beach International Airport in 2022.

Nearly 3.5 million people traveled through the airport as travel rebounds from pandemic lows and more locals choose to fly.

The airport hopes to keep the record-breaking trend in 2023 to try and sell Myrtle Beach as a year-round destination to airlines.

The 3.5 million passengers that flew in and out of Myrtle Beach International Airport in 2022 was nearly 10% higher than 2021 and nearly 35% higher than in 2019, according to airport estimates.

“It’s been another great year of growth,” said Ryan Betcher, an airport spokesperson. “The only difference between ’22 and ’21 is that we’ve seen it throughout the year a little bit more.”

Betcher said the traditional “shoulder season” in Myrtle Beach is shortening up.

The airport beat its own passenger record last year in just 11 months, thanks in large part to increased service from Spirit Airlines — an airline that accounts for close to half of the airport’s travelers.

Spirit Airlines added nine summertime non-stop flights.

“A lot of that is not just visitors coming into our market but a lot of our local population using this airport,” Betcher said.

Local rideshare drivers cashed in on the airport’s growth.

“The summer was fantastic,” said Pamela Davis, a rideshare driver. “We’d come and wait maybe 15-20, we’d be right out for a ride.”

Davis said it’s increasingly difficult to get a ride these days.

“Now we’re coming in and I think I waited over 2.5 hours yesterday,” she said.

Davis said the off-season coupled with increased competition from more rideshare drivers in the queue is limiting her take-home pay.

“A lot of people are flocking to the airport because they think they’ll get a ride,” Davis said. “It’s a lot of fun. It really is. I can’t wait until summer, though. I want to make some real money.”

The airport hopes to have its parking lot expansion finished by the end of summer to alleviate what it called “growing pains.”

The project will bring 600 new parking spots to the airport. Construction is set to begin in February.

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