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Charleston airport surges to new record in 2019 with just under 5M passengers

British Airways (copy) (copy)

The launch of British Airways' nonstop flights between Charleston and London helped propel Charleston International Airport to a new passenger record in 2019, just short of 5 million. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Charleston International didn't quite land 5 million passengers in 2019, but South Carolina's busiest airport still set a new record.

About 4.87 million travelers arrived and departed last year at CHS, up more than 400,000, or 9 percent, over 2018, according to the final tally.

December's numbers alone came in at more than 390,000, 13.2 percent higher than in 2018.

To put the airport's passenger annual volume growth in perspective, the terminal reported 2 million passengers in 2010.

One growth driver last year was the addition of British Airways's service between Charleston and London. It was the first regularly scheduled nonstop transatlantic route from any airport in South Carolina. The seasonal route returns for twice-weekly flights in late March.

Also, last year several carriers added routes to new cities across the U.S., a trend that's expected to carry over into the new year.

Served by nine airlines, carriers fly to nearly 30 cities in 18 states, the District of Columbia and London.

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Airport CEO Paul Campbell attributed the airport's surging passenger count to the growth in airlines and additional service to new cities.

"We are becoming a more popular tourist and business destination," Campbell said.

“The airport has gone from a small-town airport to a medium-size hub airport that the community can be proud of,” he said. "We have to stay ahead of the growth and that dovetails in with our expansion plans."

Additional routes are already being added, with Allegiant announcing it will tack on twice-weekly flights to Louisville, Ky., in May. Southwest Airlines plans to take on Delta Air Lines for part of the Atlanta market this summer while also adding a Kansas City connection.

Last week, Alaska Airlines said it will upgrade its existing six-day-week route between Charleston and Seattle to seven days starting in March. 

To meet the airport's growth over the past few years, the airport added five new gates as part of a $200 million overhaul of the terminal and is now building a $100 million parking deck with more than 3,000 spaces. 

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

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