COLUMBIA — A low-cost carrier will bring flights to three cities in Florida to Columbia.
Silver Airways will bring nonstop service to Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale from Charleston from Columbia Metropolitan Airport starting on Dec. 17.
The Columbia service will launch with two flights per week to each destination, operating on Thursdays and Sundays. Fares were not announced, but they are as low as $49 one-way, according to a review of flights on the airline's website.
Columbia fliers have complained for years about the airport needing more low-cost carriers.
While there are no guarantees that a fourth carrier at Columbia Metro will change fares overall, airlines watch to see what is successful and what rates others are charging, said Kim Jamieson, director of marketing and air service development for the airport.
American Airlines had been successful with nonstop service to Miami, so that certainly shows demand for travel to Florida from this area, Jamieson said. The Miami route has been suspended during the pandemic travel downturn.
Travelers have told airport staffers that Florida would be a popular choice for more flights, she said.
"This is a market that we really have pushed and gone after," Jamieson said.
Silver Airways also will start flights to the same three Florida cities from Charleston before Thanksgiving.
Silver operates flights across six cities in Florida, from Pensacola to Key West, Huntsville, Ala., and the Bahamas. It also operates a Caribbean network based in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Silver is the latest airline to bring Florida service to Columbia, but the record for airlines flying south is a challenging one. Spirit Airlines ended its service from Columbia, and other airlines such as Via Air shut down and went into bankruptcy.
The announcement of the latest carrier comes as the airline industry weathers a huge downturn related to the coronavirus, which has resulted in cutbacks on flights. Silver originally announced Charleston flights beginning in May, but pushed those plans back because of the virus-related reduction in travel.
So far in 2020, passenger numbers at Columbia Metro are down 57 percent from the year before, reflecting the broader decline in air travel amid the pandemic.
“As we all work to recover from this devastating year, this airline addition supports our focus on moving forward no matter what," said airport director Mike Gula.