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Savannah airport posts record passenger numbers for 2016

Undaunted by Hurricane Matthew, Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport welcomed a record number of passengers in 2016, finishing the year with nearly 2.2 million total passengers, an 8-percent increase over 2015.

The airport boarded more than 1 million passengers during the 12-month period, capping the year with a total of 1.08 million enplanements. Incoming passengers accounted for 1.1 million, bringing the total number of passengers served to 2.19 million.

“We are proud to report that 2016 was a record breaking year for this airport,” said Greg Kelly, airport executive director.

“We exceeded the previous high mark for all time enplanements by almost 50,000. The growth has been impressive and says a lot about the efforts of all those who work hard to attract people to our region,” Kelly said, adding that the numbers also speak to the business climate in the region.

“We have worked hard to bring in new air service with our partners at Visit Savannah, The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber and the Savannah Economic Development Authority. This partnership has produced great results over this past year and the numbers reflect that.”

The airport’s record performance might have been even better had the Lowcountry not felt the fury of Hurricane Matthew in early October, said Lori Lynah, director of marketing and air service development.

“October is typically a peak travel month for Savannah’s airport,” Lynah said. “But this year our numbers were down 10 percent as Hurricane Matthew grounded flights for three days during mandatory evacuations that closed roads into the county.”

The Hilton Head-Bluffton region in South Carolina, which accounts for approximately 45 percent of Savannah’s air travelers, also took a blow from the storm, she said.

Lynah attributed much of the growth to the addition of flight options, which in 2016 included direct service from a number of Midwest markets; and United Airlines’ addition of larger planes.

In 2017, travelers will have even more options as they choose from seven different airlines – Air Canada, Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United – offering nonstop service to a variety of major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Low-cost airline Allegiant added three new routes in 2016, including nonstop service to Baltimore, Lexington, Ky., and Newark Liberty International.

Delta, with 10 nonstop flights a day to Atlanta, five to New York City and one to Detroit, again claimed the lion’s share of the market at 43.7 percent.

American was next with 24.2 percent, including nine daily nonstop flights to Charlotte, two to Dallas/Fort Worth and one to Washington, D.C. American also serves Philadelphia with two weekday flights and four on Saturday and Sunday.

United accounted for 14 percent of the market, with three daily nonstops each to Chicago, Newark and Washington, D.C., as well as one daily flight to Houston.

JetBlue, with two daily flights to New York’s JFK and one to Boston, was next at 11.8 percent, followed by Allegiant at 5.8 percent and Sun Country at less than 1 percent.

The airport finished the year with an above-average load factor of 82 percent, which measures the percentage of available seats that were filled.

The airport goes international again in May, when Air Canada will begin Sunday through Friday nonstop service to Toronto.

ON THE WEB

For the most current flight information, check the Airport’s website at www.flySAV.com

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