American Airlines flight now offers flights from Greenville directly to Miami — the first of the airport’s new twice-daily flights to the Magic City.
The addition of the two-hour flights out of GSP International — one at 6:49 a.m. and a second in the evening — opens up the southern Florida, Latin American and Caribbean markets for the airport, said airport CEO and President Dave Edwards. Miami is a critical hub for flights bound for Mexico and central and South America, as well as for cruise lines and short flights bound for offshore islands.
The new flights are a relief for Ileanna Miranda, a benefits specialist with the Sapoznik firm who flies into Greenville from Miami annually to go over insurance options for clients in the Upstate. In the past, she faced hectic stops in the much larger Charlotte and Atlanta airports.
“Here I’m in and out in an hour and a half,” Miranda said. “This is so much easier. And this airport is so nice. Oh my God, Atlanta? Oh my God, Charlotte? You get off the plane and they say, ‘The walk to Gate K is 10 minutes.’ There’s no escalator or train, and it’s actually a 15-minute walk.”
Edwards said he has been looking for an airline to provide daily flights to and from Miami since shortly after his arrival in 2009.
“This is the first appropriate level of services for the business traveler to Florida,” Edwards said a few hours before the Miami flight launched.
It proved immediately popular, with 42 of the first plane’s 50 seats sold by 2:15 p.m. For her part, Miranda said she was grateful she would be home by 9 p.m.
“I got here early and asked for an earlier flight, and they said, ‘You’re actually taking the first flight,'” she said.
The airport as a whole was crowded Wednesday for holiday travel. Carl Gittings of Asheville waited at the American Airlines ticketing desk with his four children, 7-year-old Everliegh, 10-year-old Canyon, 12-year-old Arden and 14-year-old Carl Jr., for their afternoon flight to Albuquerque.
“We try instead of buying stuff, we try to have an experience (at Christmas),” Gittings said.
“It’s a little more direct and less expensive,” he said.
The new Miami flights are the latest addition for a busy airport this year — in 2018, GSP added new nonstop service to five destinations and a new airline, airport spokesman Dudley Brown said. GSP has seen passenger activity grow monthly for more than a year.
American Airlines spokeswoman Crystal Byrd said the airline’s planning team is always evaluating the flight network to see what works and what doesn’t. American Airlines, with more than 120,000 employees, is the largest airline in the world. Daily flights from Miami to GSP will now also take place at 4:22 and 9:46 p.m.
“You have the opportunity — if you are going for a business meeting in the morning or if you want to go in the morning and spend the whole day at the beach — you have the opportunity to go and do that and turn around and come back,” Byrd said.
The airport marked the occasion with a steel drum band, cupcakes, a pink-flamingo balloon sculpture and putting green, all installed at the top of the escalator to the airport’s A gates.
Fares vary widely, but GSP’s direct flights to Miami currently list at within $50 or $60 higher or lower than flights from Charlotte. A Dec. 19 search on Travelocity for flights departing on Feb. 1 showed round-trip tickets out of GSP cost $282 and those out of Charlotte actually more expensive, at $322.
“The earlier you book, the better the rates will be,” Brown said.
GSP already provides direct flights to Florida, but those are directed primarily at leisure travelers, with flights only two to four times a week, Edwards said. Allegiant Air flies directly to the Orlando-Sanford, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale airports, and Frontier Airlines flies to Orlando International and Tampa a few times a week.
Airport staff had to show statistically that the airline market could take another direct flight from a Southeastern airport to Miami, given the flights already offered direct from Atlanta and Charlotte, Edwards said. They have taken their pitch to airline service conferences and airline headquarters in Chicago and Charlotte.
Other daily direct flights that GSP is actively pursuing include Toronto, Boston and Denver, Edwards said.
“We are in the middle of that ‘Char-lanta’ corridor,” Edwards said.
American Airlines also has direct flights from GSP to Washington, D.C., Dallas, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Chicago, Byrd said.
With two 50-seat ERJ-145 planes now departing for Miami daily, the airport will aim to get 70 to 80 passengers a day on those planes, Edwards said.
“The last thing we want is for a carrier to pull out,” Edwards said.
Next on the airport’s agenda: getting bigger planes to land here. The commuter jets typically landing at GSP are too small for both coach and business class seating, Edwards said.
Thanks to Anna B. Mitchell for Article Content.