Thursday already was going to be a big day at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport because of the launch of Spirit Airlines service to Kentucky’s largest city. Then it got bigger.
The airline, which announced the addition of Louisville in February, revealed it was adding even more flights from the city, with multiple weekly direct flights to Fort Myers, Florida, and Tampa, Florida, starting in November.
Spirit previously announced daily nonstop flights from Louisville to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; and Orlando, Florida, as well as thrice-weekly service to Pensacola, Florida.
“I’ve seen so much enthusiasm across the whole Spirit Team as we prepared to welcome guests onboard in Louisville, and we’re off to a great start serving this incredible community,” said John Kirby, Spirit’s vice president of network planning.
Spirit’s expansion news took place less than a week after newly formed Breeze Airways announced Louisville would be among the first cities the new carrier created by former JetBlue founder David Neeleman.
Breeze’s service started Friday and will provide multiple direct flights each week to New Orleans, Tampa and Charleston, South Carolina.
The new flights mean there will be more than 300,000 additional seats in the market, according to David Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority.
The new service to the airport comes as the country is on the cusp of fully reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Tripadvisor, more than two-thirds of Americans plan to get out of town this summer.
While most will drive, air travel is trending up. The Tripadvisor survey noted 19% of travelers this summer plan to fly, which is up from 15% in the spring.
That falls in line with what Mann is seeing as well. In 2019, he said the airport set a record for passenger traffic with 4.2 million travelers.
“We actually believe – maybe not setting records – that we will be very close to 2018, 2019 levels of passengers,” Mann told The Center Square.
The airport also offers flights from carriers Allegiant, Frontier and Southwest.
Mann said the airport is seeing more leisure travelers than business passengers. Having more low-cost options as well as direct service to other cities will help fill up boarding gates.
Should Louisville succeed in filling those new seats, Mann said it will help airport officials go back to carriers and seek more flights. While most of the service focuses on flights to the southeast, midwest and west coast, Mann is also looking for more connections to the northeast.
Boston, for one, is a key target.
Of course, the airport isn’t just for area residents to get away, it also plays a key role in Louisville’s convention business and the region’s tourism economy.
Most of those who travel to Louisville come here for business or conventions, but airport officials work closely with Louisville Tourism to help promote the region for leisure travelers. That includes a focus on bourbon distilleries that have popped up across the city and region in recent years and become popular attractions.
“It’s really key to have strong business travel because it generates leisure travel on the next flight and probably after that,” Mann said. “The inbound is primarily for business right now. We obviously think we can change that.”
This article was originally posted on Business taking off at Louisville airport