New airline starts Myrtle Beach SC flights after COVID pause

Canada and Myrtle Beach are fully reconnected after two years of separation due to COVID-19.

More than 60 people from Toronto, Canada, stepped off a Porter Airlines flight Wednesday afternoon in Myrtle Beach, becoming the first fliers to do so since COVID-19 pandemic shut downs began nearly two years ago.

With that flight, Porter Airlines rejoined the ever-growing and highly competitive air travel market to Myrtle Beach, which has seen hundreds of new flights, several new destinations and even another new airline — Southwest — added in the last year.

Porter Airlines will now fly nonstop between Myrtle Beach (MYR) and Toronto (YTZ) twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Flights will run through the remainder of spring with the last flight departing on May 28 during Memorial Day weekend.

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Porter Airlines resumed service to Myrtle Beach (MYR) after a two year hiatus due to COVID-19 on Wednesday. Porter Airlines will now fly nonstop between Myrtle Beach (MYR) and Toronto (YTZ) twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Flights will run through the remainder of spring with the last flight departing on May 28 during Memorial Day weekend. March 09, 2022. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

“Canadians are eager to travel. They’ve been in Canada now for two winters, and the ability to get into the warm sun is a very exciting opportunity,” Porter Airlines’ chief commercial officer Kevin Jackson said in an interview.

Porter Airlines stopped flying to Myrtle Beach in March 2020, when the pandemic shut down much of the world and Canada and the US closed their borders to most nonessential travel. The border didn’t reopen until Nov. 8, though the coronavirus’ omicron variant dampened or delayed vacation plans for at least some Canadians who had planned on visiting Myrtle Beach during winter.

While the border reopened to nonessential travel in November, Jackson said they waited until the spring to restart flights to Myrtle Beach because most of their customers tend to take vacations around this time, partially to escape the last chills of winter up north.

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Canadian passengers from Porter Airlines pass through US Customs and Border Protection at Myrtle Beach International Airport. The airline resumed service to Myrtle Beach (MYR) after a two year hiatus due to COVID-19 on Wednesday. Porter Airlines will now fly nonstop between Myrtle Beach (MYR) and Toronto (YTZ) twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Flights will run through the remainder of spring with the last flight departing on May 28 during Memorial Day weekend. March 09, 2022. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

Restarting Porter Airlines’ flights was one of the last pieces missing in Myrtle Beach’s COVID-19 recovery. Save for the businesses that closed permanently, all other major aspects of Myrtle Beach’s economy had reopened or returned to full capacity in the last year as vaccines became readily available. Porter Airlines has been flying to Myrtle Beach since 2010.

COVID permitting, Porter Airlines will continue its restarted seasonal flight service every spring from roughly March to the end of May. However, Jackson said if demand for flights to Myrtle Beach grow, the company would consider expanding the number of flights per week and even the length of the season that they run.

Demand for Porter Airlines’ first flight was strong, Jackson said. The plane passengers flying to Myrtle Beach took holds about 80 people and was 85% full.

Jackson said it was exciting to see Canadian travelers stepping back into Myrtle Beach for the first time in so long.

“It’s great to see people without their masks,” he said. “We still have a mask mandate in Ontario for another two weeks, but it’s great when you start to dine out and see people’s faces again.

The flight landed in Myrtle Beach just in time for the 61st annual Can-Am Days festival, a celebration featuring exclusive discounts and special events for the Grand Strand’s Canadian visitors. The festival runs March 12-20.

“This occasion is more than just about the return of Porter Airlines. It symbolizes the return to a bit of normalcy. It’s been a hard two years, but today we celebrate the importance of enjoying a long overdue beach vacation,” Karen Riordan, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said at a press conference Wednesday honoring Porter Airlines’ arrival.

“Since our earliest days, the Myrtle Beach area has welcomed visitors from Canada, where for so many Canadian residents Myrtle Beach is home away from home.”

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Porter Airlines resumed service to Myrtle Beach (MYR) after a two year hiatus due to COVID-19 on Wednesday. Porter Airlines will now fly nonstop between Myrtle Beach (MYR) and Toronto (YTZ) twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Flights will run through the remainder of spring with the last flight departing on May 28 during Memorial Day weekend. March 09, 2022. Jason Lee jlee@thesunnews.com

Interested in booking a flight to Myrtle Beach, or taking a trip to Canada? Go to flyporter.com/en-ca/.

“If you have not had an opportunity, for those of you who live in Myrtle Beach, we are very happy to take you to Toronto,” Jackson said at the press conference. “We land right in the heart of downtown Toronto, where we can share with you our city.”

Chase Karacostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and across South Carolina for McClatchy. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Political Communication. He began working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he has bylines in three of the state’s largest print media outlets as well as the Texas Tribune covering state politics, the environment, housing and the LGBTQ+ community.

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