By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
North Central West Virginia Airport Director Rick Rock says that ever since he began serving in this capacity at the airport, the two questions people continually asked were … “Do you offer service to Orlando?” and “Do you offer service to Myrtle Beach?” Their wish list is being fulfilled!
“I was given advice from the moment that I took this position that the one thing that would help make the airport more successful was to get the community involved somehow,” Rock commented. “Last week, when we made the announcement about our new service to Myrtle Beach, one of the things I noticed and was very proud of was that it was not only media people and government and industry representatives in the room. We truly had a ‘packed house’ and many people who attended were private citizens eager to learn what we were revealing to them. So I think we have accomplished getting the community actively engaged and taking ownership of our airport.”
The people ‘spoke’ and airport leadership listened! The airport has now fulfilled two of the services most desired by communities in the local area – service to both Orlando and Myrtle Beach.
Brandon Myers, spokesperson for Allegiant Air, drew applause as he confirmed that Allegiant’s partnership with NCWVA would continue and would soon begin to offer direct flights to Myrtle Beach, SC. Those flights will begin June 5th and continue through August 17th. Flights to Orlando-Sanford International Airport will continue as well from NCWVA.
“It has taken some time, but thanks to our success with the Orlando service that began in November of 2013, this helped solidify this expansion to the Myrtle Beach service,” Rock added. “Our team has worked very hard to make this happen. Allegiant has become a good partner for us and we want to build an even stronger relationship with them. Now that we have proven that our area will support this type of service, I hope that we can continue by carrying even more destinations in the future. It is a winning situation for everyone in the area.”
Rock said that the secret now is to fill these carriers, and the immediate response was no doubt encouraging!
“Within two hours of the announcement being made, 50 tickets were sold,” he said. “And within 24 hours, we had sold 300 tickets! It is obvious that we have provided our customers with what they want and they’re excited to take advantage of it right away.”
The seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach encompass about 40 minutes’ air time (as opposed to traveling the 509 miles by car) and will run on Fridays and Mondays with 7 p.m. departures. The introductory price is $44 per person, one way.
“I have spoken with the people at the airport in Myrtle Beach and they are eager to welcome West Virginians to their area,” Rock added. “Their airport is very conveniently located and within ten minutes, you can be wherever you want to go in Myrtle Beach. Ultimately, I’d like to see this create more awareness in our area as well.”
Benedum Airport Authority President Ron Watson agreed, saying, “What we need to do now is market the north central West Virginia area down there and encourage folks to travel up here and see what all our beautiful state has to offer.”
Watson further noted that the airport’s annual economic benefit to the area exceeds $1 billion dollars and that they will continue to look for more ways to use the airport and ways for users to benefit from it.
“From our perspective, we want to keep growing our economy and making things better,” Watson concluded. “We’ve worked on this for a long time and found ways around obstacles, but the airport’s growth has been good for north central West Virginia. Stay tuned … there is more to come!”