Airport officials say PCB is now a flying destination thanks to pandemic

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 9:44 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Almost 150,000 people came in and out of Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in April alone.

Airport officials said it’s the highest number they’ve seen since opening in 2010.

Panama City Beach used to be known as a driving destination, but according to airport officials, now the pandemic has made it a flying destination.

They said numbers this spring season are soaring and they don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Executive Director Parker McClellan said ever since Governor Ron DeSantis opened up short-term rentals and the beaches last May, they have seen a positive trend in the growth of the airport and air traffic.

“We saw the trend from being down 95% to start climbing,” said McClellan.

Since 2019, seat capacity has started climbing more than 58%. According to a study done by Simply Flying, ECP ranked number four with the most growth since the pandemic.

“In terms of the diversity of the flights that we have and the different destinations and now we’re up gauging airplanes, which means we’re putting in bigger airplanes,” said McClellan.

McClellan said they’re doing everything they can to accommodate more airlines and planes flying through.

“So there’s about 575,000 seats coming into the market this summer, so we’re excited about that,” said McClellan.

McClellan says while the numbers are already soaring, he’s excited to see that trend continue into the summer and continue the growth of ECP. Growth McClellan said is coming through a variety of ways like increasing passenger activity and giving passengers more choices to fly to.

“So we can be a more diverse destination. People can come from everywhere and come to Panama City Beach and to our region,” said McClellan.

McClellan said ECP will keep touching the clouds as it grows. He said last summer, ECP saw about 80 commercial flights a day. He adds this summer, they’re expecting 100 to 110 each day.

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