Charleston airport numbers take off; 31.8 percent increase from year ago


June 24--The number of passengers at Charleston International Airport continues to soar, setting another record in May.

The Charleston County Aviation Authority reported Thursday that 252,543 passengers traveled through its two concourses last month. That's 31.8 percent more than a year ago and more than 13,000 over April, when the previous record was set.

Airport Director Sue Stevens attributed the increase to several factors.

"It's the growth of the local economy, the presence of Southwest (Airlines) and lower airfares," she said. "We are excited to have another record-breaking month."

Southwest Airlines started service out of Charleston in March, helping to drop airfares among competitors and drive more people to fly in and out of Charleston International Airport.

Delta Airlines, the long-time dominant carrier in Charleston, served the largest number of travelers in May with 87,505 passengers.

USAirways reported the second-highest number at 64,622 passengers last month.

Southwest Airlines saw 50,913 passengers on its seven daily flights to four cities, 195 more travelers than its first full month of operation in Charleston in April.

American and Continental also reported higher passenger counts, but United Airlines' number of passengers slipped last month by 6.6 percent over a year ago to 20,035. Its count was also down 4.4 percent year over year in April.

In all, though, the airport saw 60,900 more passengers in May than it did a year ago.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Stevens thinks the airport will continue to remain busy.

"I anticipate this trend continuing," she said.

Fliers on the rise

Year-to-date passenger volumes at Charleston International Airport:

Month -- 2010 -- 2011 -- Pct. increase

January -- 123,301 -- 125,905 -- 2%

February -- 115,910 -- 127,960 -- 10%

March |166,874 |206,331 -- 24%

April -- 185,540 -- 239,531 -- 29%

May -- 191,643 -- 252,543 -- 32%

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.