Gulfport airport will soar if new airlines fly to the coast

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Local business leaders attended an airline and tourism development summit on Wednesday at Beau Rivage.  The goal of the meeting was to recruit new airlines to Gulfport Biloxi International Airport.

The airport currently has five airlines flying passengers in and out of south Mississippi.  But Bruce Frallic says there's room at the ticket counter for a few more.

"Every one of these summits that we've had has generated new airline service for us, every one of them," said the airport director.

The fourth annual airline and tourism development summit Frallic mentioned was in the Beau Rivage Theater.  Business leaders from all over south Mississippi made pitches to recruit additional airline service in and out of Gulfport.

For example, John Wilson spoke about the Infiniti project at Stennis Space Center that blasts off in 2011.  He says the exploration museum would attract people from all over the world.  Consequently, he said, it would "put us on the map in terms of family oriented tourism, and turn the spotlight on some incredible things that occur along this gulf coast."  And that would enhance airport boardings.

One of the airline managers shmoozed at the summit was Delta's Mike Doil.  His airline recently merged with Northwest.  So, it has flights from Gullfport to Atlanta and to Memphis.  "Gulfport has been a very strong market, good market for us," said Doil.  "So we will continue to evaluate opportunities as they present themselves from the Gulfport Biloxi area."

Doil was reminded several times at the airline summit that when it comes to check-ins at ticket counters, Gulfport Biloxi is the exception to the rule.  At a time when passenger counts at most airports are down, this airport keeps growing.

"We're excited about the opportunities that the airlines are putting out there for us," said Frallic.

He hinted that one of those opportunities would be announced next week.  But he wouldn't release any details about what was about to land at the airport's ticket counter.

Since the beginning of last year, the Gulfport airport lost three airlines.  Air Tran, Skybus, and Myrtle Beach Jet Express all canceled their south Mississippi service.

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