GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - 2014 is on pace to be the slowest year for the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport since 1999. The lobbies and gate terminals have been quiet lately, and that presents a problem not only for the airport, but the local economy.
"Estimates show that when someone drives into a market, they're spending about $400 to $450. When they fly in, they're going to stay three nights, and they are going to spend about $750," said airport Executive Director Clay Williams.
With rising fuel costs and the loss of AirTran in 2010, the airport is looking for ways to keep travelers coming through its doors.
"Passengers coming into the airport are often a function of the ticket price, and what we've seen over the past few years is that airlines are reducing capacity and are driving up the ticket fares," said Assistant Executive Director Jim Foster.
Foster says they have been looking for an affordable carrier to fill the vacancy AirTran left, but it has been a difficult process.
"They're very selective. It's difficult to attract their attention," said Foster.
Even with the absence of a low cost carrier, Williams says there are other incentives to using the local airport.
"We have an airport rewards loyalty program partner called, Thanks Again, so people that are members of Thanks Again can register their credit card and their frequent flyer card of their choice for whatever airline they want to use," said Williams.
When travelers fly out of Gulfport-Biloxi, they get additional frequent flyer miles for parking at the airport, shopping at the airport or dining at one of the dining areas.
Though numbers are down, airport officials say they are not worried. They are hopeful traffic will pick back up around the holidays.