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Passengers wait for luggage at a baggage claim carousel at Charleston International Airport. Leroy Burnell/Staff

Charleston International Airport offered more airlines to more destinations in larger aircraft last year, but it came up just short of a passenger milestone.

Blame it on Hurricane Irma.

The state's busiest terminal saw 3.98 million travelers coming and going last year, according to airport CEO Paul Campbell.

"We were about 12,000 short of reaching 4 million," Campbell said Thursday.

That's still a record for the growing airport.

About 75,000 others piloted aircraft or served passengers as crew members, a figure Campbell said if added would have pushed the number of people flying in and out of Charleston above 4 million for the first time.

"We came close," he said.

The threat from the remnants of Hurricane Irma cut into the airport's passenger count, he added.

For the entire year, the terminal averaged 10,924 travelers a day. In September, it averaged 9,700 a day and lost 31,000 passengers as a result of the storm. Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas, affected the airport's numbers as well since the storm closed terminals elsewhere with flights to Charleston.

"When the governor declared a state of emergency, traffic just dried up," Campbell said of the Irma threat. "If not for that, we would have surpassed 4 million easily."

Campbell said the airport's passenger growth means the terminal is approaching a mid-size hub.

"You are a smaller fish in a bigger pond, but it allows more money from the FAA for airport improvements," he said.

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Charleston International offers flights through the nation's legacy carriers such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines along with low-cost providers JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines. It also offers transcontinental, nonstop flights via Alaska Airlines.

The airport will pick up initial service from Denver-based Frontier Airlines in February and air carrier Allegiant of Las Vegas in April to select cities.

In 2016, Charleston International ferried 3.7 million passengers through its newly renovated and expanded terminal. Officials last year at this time expected 2017's final numbers to approach or surpass the 4-million mark.

The number of people flying in and out of the Lowcountry has nearly doubled since 2010 as the region's economy bounced back from the crippling recession in the past decade.

More global industries choosing Charleston to set up businesses and more tourists pouring into the historic port city helped to drive up the airport's numbers, Campbell said.

The arrival of new airlines this year is expected to boost passenger counts, but the ticket-holder number for January is expected to be blunted because of the Jan. 3 winter storm that closed the airport for nearly four days.

Last year in January, the terminal saw about 8,000 passengers a day arriving and departing.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.