Passengers and flights are returning to Charleston International in droves, and airport officials expect a new travel record to be set by mid-summer.
“We are scheduled to have July as the greatest month of this airport,” Elliott Summey, CEO of Charleston County Aviation Authority, said of the expected number of people traveling by air.
The remark came after the state’s busiest airport reported its May passenger count at nearly 88 percent of the pre-COVID-19 level.
Last month, nearly 410,000 people traveled through the airport on arrivals and departures. That’s up 700 percent from last year, when just over 51,000 people tugged luggage through the terminal. In May 2019, more than 469,000 people came and went at the airport.
During the first five months of 2021, the terminal has seen about 1.2 million people coming and going. That compares to about 887,000 last year from January through May and nearly 1.9 million in 2019 for the same time span.
The airport’s passenger count is down about 37 percent from the first five months of 2019, when a record 4.87 million people traveled through the terminal for the entire year.
No record is expected to be broken this year, but with the addition of Breeze Airways and its 11 destinations over the summer and several airlines returning with expanded flight schedules, passenger numbers are on pace to rise considerably over the next few months.
June could bring the airport close to 100 percent of pre-pandemic passenger levels.
“Leisure travel has come back,” Summey said. “Business travel is taking a bit longer, but I see it coming back.”
Charleston’s airport, he said, is recovering about 20 percent faster than the national average.
Overall, Summey said, “We are moving in the right direction.”
Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.