United Airlines announced that it will begin service to and from the Hilton Head Island Airport in South Carolina, starting spring 2019. American Airlines began service in and out of the airport in July 2018.

“We feel Delta is just around the corner to add direct flights from Atlanta to Hilton Head,” shared Jack Reed, director of sales for the Hilton Head Island Visitors & Convention Bureau.

Reed spoke with Christoph Trappe, chief content engagement director with Stamats Business Media and Meetings Today at IMEX America 2018 for an episode of the Meetings Today Podcast.

[Listen: How Extending a Runway Helped Bring Events to Hilton Head]

The news of the added service out of the Hilton Head Island Airport is due to the recently finished runway expansion project. The airport’s runway was lengthened from 4,300 feet to 5,000 feet, allowing larger jets to land there. Prior to the expansion, the runway could only handle propeller planes, which as Reed pointed out, wasn’t as inviting to much of the population, let alone larger groups!

The majority of air service to and from Hilton Head Island was, and still is, out of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, which is about 40 miles away. The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is gearing up for its own upgrade project, a $25 million gate terminal expansion.

According the Reed, the Hilton Head Island Airport runway expansion project was in the works for years, held up due to public concern of its impact on the environment and noise levels. The airport completed a study in 2014 that found the longer runway would have no additional environmental impacts.

United’s Plans for Direct Service to Hilton Head Island

On Meetings Today Podcast, Reed told Trappe that talks of the United Airlines partnership began 18 months ago. The airline will offer nonstop flights from Hilton Head Island to Washington Dulles International Airport twice a day starting March 31, 2019. Then, beginning April 6, 2019, United will have service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport two times a week and to Newark Liberty International Airport one a week.

This runway expansion and added air service to Hilton Head Island Airport has already impacted the destination in a positive way. According to Reed, the airport is 38 percent ahead of last year with people deplaning in Hilton Head Island. This also brings anticipation of more meetings and convention business.

“The planners who were adventurous and didn’t mind a prop plane were excited to be able to land right on the island, 10 minutes from anywhere,” Reed said.

“It bypasses that 45- to 50-minute drive and the cost of transportation,” he added.

Now with jets flying directly to Hilton Head Island, even the less daring can enjoy the convenience of landing right on the island, minutes from hotels, resorts and venues.

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