As Southwest flight 1473 pulled into the gate at Myrtle Beach International Airport Sunday morning, the passengers and crew received a slight “shower” as the plane came to its final stop.
“It’s the objective of every airport director to bring in a new airline,” said Scott Van Moppes, director of airports at Myrtle Beach International Airport. “When that new airline is one of the premier air carriers of any generation like Southwest Airlines, that is what dreams are made of.”
In March, MYR announced that Southwest Airlines would be offering non-stop flights to 10 cities starting this summer. Flights from Baltimore, Nashville and Chicago were scheduled to start Sunday, while flights to Dallas and Pittsburgh are scheduled to begin May 29. Flights to Atlanta, Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City and St. Louis are scheduled to start June 6.
Local, state and even federal politicians stopped by for the arrival of Southwest’s inaugural flight to MYR on Sunday. MYR is the second airport in South Carolina to host Southwest, the first being Charleston.
“I mean, if you can’t come to Myrtle Beach, Charleston is a pretty good second choice,” U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, joked with the crowd. “We are delighted that they recognized their mistake and added Myrtle Beach International to their portfolio.”
One of the slogans for Southwest is “Golf bags fly free,” so the airline seems like a natural fit for a golf community like the Grand Strand.
Charlie Rymer, a golf professional from Myrtle Beach, estimated that he has traveled a total of 3 million commercial air miles “all around the world.” Many of those trips, Rymer said, involved traveling with a golf bag.
“Can you imagine how many checked bag dollars I spent carrying that golf bag all around the world?” Rymer said. “Not anymore because at Southwest, golf bags fly free. My job is to get golfers to come here. Can you imagine how much easier my job got today?”
On Sunday morning, MYR was packed with travelers awaiting to take to the skies. It’s something that Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune called a “beautiful sight.”
“This is just a taste of what our summer is going to be like,” Bethune said. “This is a beautiful sight and we are so happy to welcome Southwest Airlines and what a great addition that is going to be Myrtle Beach’s portfolio for airlines. This is going to be great for our residents, for our businesses and for our visitors. And I cannot tell you how much we look forward to welcoming them to the beautiful 60 miles of beaches when they arrive here today and ongoing.”
As the first arrivals stepped off the plane and into MYR, they were greeted by huge applause and given little goodie bags.
Teyonia Scott and her family were some of those passengers. Scott, who had never been to Myrtle Beach, came from Baltimore to the Grand Strand to help celebrate her mother’s birthday.
“We are probably just going to go to the beach and relax,” Scott said.
For Scott, Southwest makes things simple. That’s why the company is her go-to airline.
“Everything is easy,” Scott said. “The seating, the ticketing, being able to change flights. Just everything about it.”
Southwest adding more direct flights to its portfolio fit right into Scott’s wheelhouse.
“We only take direct flights," Scott said with a laugh. "I’m spoiled.”