Beach Flights Filling Up on New Carrier

Bookings for nonstop flights from Charleston to Myrtle Beach are "doing extremely well," said a spokesman for Southern Skyways.

The company is scheduled to begin low-cost Cincinnati-Charleston-Myrtle Beach air service one month from today, on May 25.

The service, originally scheduled to begin March 2, was postponed because of a soft response to late winter and early spring bookings. Southern Skyways had originally planned to offer service on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but has dropped Wednesdays.

Airline spokesman Cary Evans called it "the soft spot" in the schedule.

"The Friday and Monday service is doing extremely well," he said.

"The rationale for Charleston is the fact that Myrtle Beach is the beach everybody goes to for summer vacation," Evans said. "That's the experience we're having with reservations. We're experiencing the typical booking curve for leisure travel.

"People are booking close to their departure date," he said. "There was a time when the typical booking date was 90 to 120 days in advance. Now it's more typically 30 to 60 days. Most of your bookings come within a month or so of when you're going to travel, which is why June is selling so well. When we come to the end of May, we would expect to sell July."

Although bookings "are doing just fine," seats remain available on all flights, Evans said. Southern Skyways will use 148-passenger Boeing 737s.

Evans said bookings for Charleston-Cincinnati "are not as strong" as Charleston-Myrtle Beach bookings but "I honestly think that will book even closer to the travel date than Charleston."

Rick Atkinson, director of Yeager Airport, said Southern Skyways is offering "some really great specials." For example, "they're offering a $19 dollar one-way fare for May 25 and May 28 to and from Charleston and Cincinnati," he said.

"Class VI River Runners has offered a great one-day package for people from Cincinnati," Atkinson said. "Folks from Cincinnati can fly into Charleston, land at 9:45 a.m., go up to the New River, have lunch, take a half-day raft trip, eat dinner, get back to Charleston before 8 p.m. and be home in Cincinnati by 9 p.m.," he said.

Atkinson said the airline and local whitewater operators also have some Memorial Day weekend getaway packages in the works for people from Myrtle Beach. He said one-way fares from Myrtle Beach to Charleston will be $49 on May 25 and then $49 for a return flight on May 28.

"That's a biker weekend in Myrtle Beach so a lot of people will want to get out of town," Evans said. The airline is advertising the Charleston getaway on Myrtle Beach radio stations and in print media there, he said.

Another special will offer Cincinnati-area residents an opportunity to fly to Charleston, stay three nights at the Charleston House Holiday Inn and enjoy the Vandalia Gathering over the Memorial Day weekend. The package is $199 per person. "That's a heck of a deal - round-trip air and three nights lodging," Evans said. "We expect a reasonably good response."

Evans said all of the airline's special deals can be found on the bottom left of its Web site, .

Flights from Charleston to Myrtle Beach will take about 75 minutes.

Yeager Airport has been advertising Southern Skyways' service on the airport's Website, , and in Charleston media.

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