Friday, April 27, 2012

Vision to add flights to Myrtle Beach from Rickenbacker Airport | The Columbus Dispatch

Vision to add flights to Myrtle Beach

Frequent visitors to Myrtle Beach can breathe a sigh of relief, as Rickenbacker Airport has found an airline to serve the popular golf and beach destination.

Vision Airlines announced yesterday plans to fly from Rickenbacker to the South Carolina resort city starting June 1. These twice-a-week flights will continue through Oct. 29.

The news comes a little more than a month after Direct Air canceled its plans for seasonal Rickenbacker-to-Myrtle Beach flights scheduled to start May 23. The airline soon filed for bankruptcy and remains grounded.

“Our dialogue with Vision goes back a few years and precedes Direct Air,” said David Whitaker, vice president of business development for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, which oversees Rickenbacker and Port Columbus.

“These conversations intensified after Direct Air (canceled its flights) and Vision saw a developed market, and it worked out very well.”

The Vision flights will be on Mondays and Fridays. The first leg, from Myrtle Beach, will depart at 7:30 a.m. and arrive at Rickenbacker at 8:55 a.m. Flights will depart from Rickenbacker at 9:40 a.m. and arrive in Myrtle Beach at 11:05 a.m. The airline will use 136-seat Boeing 737 airplanes.

Vision also announced yesterday similar service from Cincinnati; Cleveland; Toledo; Indianapolis; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Springfield, Ill.

“We partnered with the Myrtle Beach airport to pick these cities,” said Vision spokeswoman Gini Strobel. “We looked for markets that needed affordable, nonstop service.”

Ticket prices range from $109 to $189 each way, Strobel said. Baggage fees are $15 each way for the first bag and $20 for the second if booked in advance, or $25 for the first bag and $30 for the second if paid at the airport.

The airport authority offers financial incentives to attract new carriers and routes at Port Columbus and Rickenbacker. It will waive about $18,000 in fees and provide Vision with $50,000 for marketing the flights this year.

That investment could pay big financial dividends. Whitaker said the Vision flights could enable Rickenbacker to top the 10,000 outbound-passenger mark this year, which would allow it to qualify for $1 million in federal funding for capital improvements instead of $150,000.

“It’s still a long shot and depends on picking up another market in Florida after the Vision flights end,” Whitaker said, adding he has had discussions with Vision about adding Florida routes.

Direct Air had announced flights from Rickenbacker to Lakeland, Fla., that were to have started on June 17.

“It’s possible, but we don’t have any news about new routes,” Strobel said of a Rickenbacker-to-Florida route. “Right now, we’re focusing on these new Myrtle Beach routes.”

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

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