JetBlue Airways soon will land bigger jets in Charleston.
Charleston International saw a record number of passengers last year, partially due to JetBlue's arrival.
Nearly 2.9 million people passed through the airport, about 10% more than in 2012 and up from 2.5 million in 2011.
The number of passengers is expected to reach 3.5 million by 2022.
To meet the predicted future growth, the 29-year-old airport terminal is adding five new gates and a third baggage carousel as part of its $189 million makeover. Work is set to be completed in August 2015.
Because of increased passenger demand at Charleston International Airport, the New York-based, low-cost carrier will upgrade its flights to New York on March 6 from the 100-seat Embraer 190 model to the Airbus 320, which seats 150, JetBlue spokesman Morgan Johnston said Friday.
"It's encouraging to see demand increase after only a year of service," he said.
JetBlue began service out of Charleston on Feb. 28, 2013, with two daily flights to New York and another to Boston. It later added a second flight on Saturdays to Boston.
"Where we see the demand, we always upgrade the service," Johnston said. "We're pleased at the reception the people of Charleston have given JetBlue this past year. Our ability to grow our service in the area is dependent on customers supporting the low fares we drive in a market and our adding of larger aircraft is really a result of the support we've seen from both New York and Charleston residents.
Airport officials looked at JetBlue's move as another indication of the state's largest airport continuing to grow.
"That's big news for us," said Paul Campbell, head of Charleston County's three airports. "It gives us more seats, and it gives us better service to those destinations. We think it's a win-win-win for everybody. The airport gets more service. JetBlue picks up additional passengers, and we think it could impact the cost in the right direction."
JetBlue's upgrade is the equivalent of adding another flight out of Charleston, said Gary Edwards, an air service development consultant for the Charleston County Aviation Authority and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It's a great statement of how well they are doing here," Edwards said.
He, too, said the bigger aircraft could affect the carrier's prices positively.
"The cost on seat per mile is more efficient on a larger aircraft, so their ability to pass along rates that we all look for is enhanced. It's a very good thing."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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