Business at Coast airport not exactly taking off - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Business at Coast airport not exactly taking off

Business isn't flying so high these days at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. (Photo source: WLOX) Business isn't flying so high these days at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. (Photo source: WLOX)
Airport executive director Clay Williams says there are several reasons for the decrease. (Photo source: WLOX) Airport executive director Clay Williams says there are several reasons for the decrease. (Photo source: WLOX)
So far in 2015, the passenger count is down about 5 percent. This follows a decrease of 9 percent in 2014. (Photo source: WLOX) So far in 2015, the passenger count is down about 5 percent. This follows a decrease of 9 percent in 2014. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The jets take off every day, but the same can't be said for passengers. Their numbers are dwindling. Passenger counts are down almost 5 percent so far this year and were down 9.5 percent in 2014. In fact, last year's numbers were the lowest since 1999, with 662,000 people climbing onboard.

Clay Williams is the Executive Director of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, and he says there is one main reason the numbers are being grounded.

“You've got four airlines who now control 80 percent of the market share in the United States. You've got fewer carriers from which to choose. Many have merged with one another. A number of carriers have gone bankrupt,” said Williams.

There's another airport just 75 miles to the west that's also taking a bite out of the business here on the Coast, according to Williams.

“If you look at the South Mississippi traffic base that could fly out of this airport, almost 40 percent is flying out of New Orleans, and so what happens is, when that occurs, airlines will reduce their capacity here, and it does cause fares to be somewhat inflated,” Williams said.

While the airport director admits fares are often times lower out of New Orleans than they are out of Gulfport-Biloxi and even lower out of Mobile occasionally, for some of the customers flying out of this airport, that doesn't seem to matter. One of them is Linda McGill.

“It's a little bit more expensive than New Orleans. I could have gotten a cheaper flight, but it's just so much easier so I chose to fly out of here,” McGill said.

The answer to having passenger numbers take off once again may be as simple as putting on a good sales presentation.

“We just need more people to realize what a convenient airport we have. It's very easy to use. We've got ample amenities here,” Williams said.

Williams points out that business at almost every airport in the state is down substantially. The only exceptions are Hattiesburg and Meridian. Both cities were recently upgraded from turboprops to regional jet services.

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