For the fifth year in the row, a record number of travelers made their way through Charleston International in 2015.
The state’s busiest airport, which is nearing the end of a $200 million terminal building overhaul, saw 3.4 million passengers coming and going last year. That’s nearly 300,000 more than in 2014.
The airport surpassed 3 million passengers for the first time in 2014, a growth spurt fueled by increased competition, bigger planes and new destinations.
“Passenger traffic has more than doubled since 2001, and we know from our own studies that the growth is continuing at a rate faster than our projections,” said Paul Campbell, executive director and CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, the airport’s owner and operator. “We are already at passenger levels predicted for 2025.”
Campbell called it a good problem to have, but one that comes with challenges.
“It means we need to look ahead to how we keep up with the growth while we continue to provide outstanding service for our passengers and help our airlines, rental car operators and other concessions prosper,” he said.
Last year, Charleston International added three new airlines — Alaska Airlines, Silver Airways and Porter Airlines — and six new destinations.
Florida-based Silver, which represented a fraction of the market with flights to Orlando and Tampa, pulled out of the Lowcountry this month. Canada-based Porter offered seasonal service during the first part of the year to Toronto. It is not returning this year.
Other airlines such as Delta, JetBlue and Southwest started flying larger planes into the region, and Campbell said more seats on bigger jets equal more passengers.
Looking ahead, he said, 2016 should see continued growth since three more air-service routes have already been announced for the first half of the year.
JetBlue will add a second daily route to Boston in April and a third daily flight to Washington in May, while Southwest will begin flying to Denver in June on Saturdays. Charleston International said it offers about 112 daily flights coming and going to 24 airports and 19 cities.
The nearly four-year terminal makeover is expected to be completed by March 31, but more construction is on the way in the not-too-distant future. Officials are already talking about adding more ticket-counter space for more airlines and building a second parking deck. Those projects could begin later this year or early next year, Campbell said.
The airport projects it will reach 4 million passengers by 2023, growing by 25 percent over 2014.