Silver Airways to end local service

Silver Airways will stop serving Charleston International Airport in early January, according to an airport official.

A Fort Lauderdale-based airline is leaving Charleston International Airport after less than nine months serving the Lowcountry.

Silver Airways will pull out of Charleston in early January, said Paul Campbell, CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

An airline official cited “weak future bookings” as a reason for its departure and said the carrier “decided to pause” its service to the Charleston market.

“After launching our new service from Charleston to Orlando and Tampa earlier this year, we unfortunately did not see the expected load-factor levels on these flights that deliver profitability for our airline,” said Amy Valcik, vice president of commercial operations for the airline.

“As is standard practice in our industry, we carefully monitor the capacity of every route we fly, and if future bookings continue to be weak, we must make realistic business decisions,” she said. “Since we have not seen significant improvements in bookings over the past several months, we have decided to pause our service at this time.”

The airline started serving Charleston in March with nonstop daily flights to Orlando and Tampa on its 34-seat Saab 340Bplus, a turboprop aircraft.

Owned by Victory Park Capital, the Chicago-based investment firm launched the airline in 2011. The small regional carrier offers about 150 daily flights mostly along the East Coast and in the Bahamas. It is allied with United Airlines, which also serves Charleston.

Campbell said Silver accounted for a small fraction, about 1.5 percent, of the air service out of Charleston, but he added, “It’s a hit for us. We hate to see them go.”

Campbell said the airline told airport officials that Charleston “didn’t fit their business plan.”

He believes JetBlue Airways’ recent addition of a direct flight to Fort Lauderdale cut into the service since both of Silver’s flights to Florida continued to Fort Lauderdale.

Campbell said the airline was seeing about 85 percent occupancy on its flights out of Charleston.

“Maybe one day they will be back,” he said.

The airline’s departure comes during a year when Charleston International saw added routes and new carriers.

Canada-based Porter Airlines offered seasonal service during the first part of the year to Toronto. Alaska Airlines launched nonstop, transcontinental service between Charleston and its home base of Seattle in November.

Southwest Airlines — already serving Baltimore, Chicago, Houston and Nashville — first added Saturday-only service to its Dallas home base in April and then daily flights in August. JetBlue announced a second flight to Boston next April and will add a third flight to Washington in May. JetBlue also serves New York, its home base.

Charleston International is projecting 25 percent passenger growth through 2023 and will wrap up a nearly $200 million terminal expansion and renovation project by next spring to handle increased passenger demand.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.