Flying to Myrtle Beach this summer? Expect long lines, plus other tips to survive TSA

A Spirit Airlines plane lands at Myrtle Beach International Airport on May 23, 2021. The low-cost carrier has vastly expanded the number of flights to the Grand Strand as leisure travel becomes more popular as the pandemic wanes.
·5 min read

Myrtle Beach has become one of the most popular destinations for summer travel in the U.S., and airlines have taken advantage of that, with several adding dozens of new flights every week for the summer season.

All these new flights bring a lot more travelers, and that means longer lines at Myrtle Beach’s small airport. A speedy run through the single-terminal airport might not be as quick as you remember from before COVID-19.

“Really every weekend as we go into the summer” will be busy, TSA regional spokesman Mark Howell said. “We’re looking at new flights coming in to Myrtle Beach and the throughput through the security checkpoint is going to almost double when we get into summer travel season (compared to spring) with the addition of new flights with multiple airlines.”

Spirit Airlines, Myrtle Beach’s largest carrier, said it has more than 200 flights at the airport each week this summer. That’s a 40% increase compared with pre-pandemic as it and other U.S. airlines seek to take advantage of increased interest in leisure travel.

“This is an attractive place for people to come and play,” Spirit CEO Ted Christie said at a press conference Thursday marking 25 years since the airline first began flying to Myrtle Beach. “We serve as leisure customers how are trying to find interesting sunny destinations to take their family. Myrtle Beach has all of that and more because they offer it affordably.”

On Wednesday, Spirit also announced its major expansion to Miami International Airport, the first time it has had a presence there, and dozens of new destinations, including Myrtle Beach.

Howell said many weekends will see as many as 10,000-14,000 people traveling through the airport daily on the weekends during the summer. In May, a typical weekend saw 5,500 people daily with an increase to about 7,500 for Memorial Day. Nationwide, TSA was still in the process of hiring an additional 6,000 officers, so expect security lines almost anywhere you go to take longer than usual.

Particularly on notoriously busy weekends like the 4th of July and Labor Day, the Transportation Security Administration recommends arriving at the airport two hours ahead of your flight. This will give travelers plenty of time to address snags in security, bag handling or any additional support needed.

“I like to equate it is it’s like a funnel. You can only put so much in the funnel before it starts to overflow,” Howell said. “We want everybody to be cognizant that there will be some wait times, especially in those peak parts of the day, those early mornings and pockets throughout the day when you have a lot of flights going through.”

Sundays tend to be the busiest days at the airport, the TSA said, so be sure to give yourself extra time if you plan to travel on that day of the week.

Here are all of the new flights added this year to the airport.

Southwest Airlines (new to Myrtle Beach)

New destinations/airports listed in bold.

  • Atlanta, Ga.

  • Baltimore, Md.

  • Chicago (Midway), Ill.

  • Columbus, Ohio

  • Indianapolis, Ind.

  • Kansas City, Mo.

  • Nashville, Tenn.

  • St. Louis, Mo.

Saturdays only:

  • Dallas (Love Field), Tx.

  • Pittsburgh, Pa.

United Airlines (Memorial Day to Labor Day)

  • Cleveland, Ohio

  • Milwaukee, Wis.

  • St. Louis, Mo.

Frontier Airlines

  • Buffalo, N.Y.

  • Portland, Maine

  • Providence, R.I.

  • Miami, Fla.

Spirit Airlines

  • Miami, Fla. (Starting Nov. 17)

Can I take this on a plane?

Airport security has also seen a rather large volume of travelers in recent weeks trying to take items through security that can’t go on a plane. Many travelers could be given, it’s been a long time since some of us have flown.

Here are some of the items you might have forgotten that are a no-go when it comes to flying. These belong in your checked bag if you plan to bring them at all. A full list of allowed and banned items can be found on TSA.gov.

  • Weapons: guns, souvenir knives, actual knives, tasers, brass knuckles (regardless of material)

  • Most tools: drills, wrenches, wire cutters, screwdrivers

  • Bludgeons: batons, baseball bats (even those mini souvenir ones from Pelicans games)

  • Liquids over 3.4 oz. (Exception: Unless it is medicine or up to 12 oz of hand sanitizer)

  • Aerosols over 3.4 oz: sunscreen, hairspray, perfume/cologne

  • Large snow globes (must be tennis ball sized or smaller to go in a carry-on bag)

Other funny items people tried to bring into the airport recently.

  • An entire handle of Tito’s Handmade Vodka

  • Blood Mary mix

  • Fabric softener

  • A glass bottle of what looks to be jelly or honey

  • Cat-shaped knuckles

Oh, also you can’t bring everclear at all on the plane, or any alcohol over 140 proof.

A busy airport: “The new normal”

Karen Riordan, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO, said that Myrlte Beach residents and visitors have become a little spoiled in recent years with how easy it is to get in and out of the airport. While the airport is doing what it can to get people through, she said it’s really important to remember that the airport is busier than it was a few years ago, and especially a lot busier than it’s been for the last year and a half of the pandemic.

“Be patient,” she said. “Don’t put yourself in a situation where are you going to be frazzled and frantic and afraid that you’re going to miss that flight because you cut it too close.

Even on a Wednesday afternoon, when The Sun News spoke to Riordan, the airport had growing lines at TSA and slow traffic all throughout the parking, pick-up and drop-off areas.

“It’s been busy in here, both outgoing and then incoming,” she said. “We expect that’s going to stay that way throughout the summer. This is the new normal.”

Don’t forget: Masks are still required at all airports in the U.S. until at least Sept. 13.

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