Myrtle Beach flights returning to Rickenbacker

One-year-old Myrtle Beach Direct Air will bring back regular passenger service to Rickenbacker Airport starting in March.

The move comes two years after Myrtle Beach-based Hooters Air pulled out of Rickenbacker. The airport, part of a former U.S. Air Force base, has served primarily as a cargo airport for the past couple of years after seeing a number of passenger airlines come and go.

The initial schedule calls for flights between Columbus and Myrtle Beach on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, with one-way fares starting at $99, said Ed Warneck, airline president, while making the announcement yesterday at Rickenbacker. A promotional price of $79 each way will be available for bookings made through the end of this month.

The airline will be operating two Boeing 737s by March, Warneck said. Service also will include flights between Myrtle Beach and several other cities, including Tampa, Fla.; Newark, N.J.; and Pittsburgh.

"We do things the old-fashioned way," said Warneck when asked about the airline's appeal. "We have people that answer phones. We allow advance seating so that families can sit together."

David Whitaker, business development chief for the airport authority, said the Columbus-Myrtle Beach route was successful for Hooters and he would expect it to be good for the new airline.

"The problem with keeping air service here has just been that it's a tough industry in general," Whitaker said.

The airline sells Myrtle Beach golf packages at selected times. Warneck said they might offer Columbus-area packages next summer.