Airport terminal opens new gateway to Myrtle Beach

It's big, it's sparkling and it's open for business. The new and long-awaited Myrtle Beach International Airport terminal opened to passengers Tuesday morning.

Airport officials say it was a smooth transition at 4:30 a.m., when all passenger traffic was directed to the new terminal.

The reviews for day one could be summed up as: so far, so good.

"It looks sparkling clean and new," said Paul Bogden, a golfer from Flemington, New Jersey.

"It's clean and new, a lot of space," added Kristi Burkett, who made her first flight to Myrtle Beach from Pennsylvania to visit her grandparents.

A common first impression from those familiar with the old Myrtle Beach terminal is that the new structure is just.. bigger.

"Before, the (old terminal) was kind of small and old, and now the kids couldn't believe when they walked in, all the space there was," said Faith Fratto from Pittsburgh.

Other travelers remarked that the new terminal is more colorful and has better lighting than the old building.

"The main thing is, passengers get that 'wow' factor. It's the way you want to set the stage for people visiting our market place," said airport spokesman Kirk Lovell.

Lovell also point outs features in the new airport that have more to do with function than appearance. The new terminal has more kiosks for passenger check-in, and the machines are common use, not owned by individual airlines.

"So a passenger can walk up to any of the kiosks that they see and check in for their flight, where before you'd see four kiosks for one airline, you got to wait for those four," Lovell said.

He said other improvements that may not be obvious to travelers include longer baggage belts, designed with golf bags in mind and more space on the tarmac, allowing bigger planes to park next to each other. That allows more passengers to use the boarding bridge instead of walking outdoors.

One businessman who flies frequently out of Myrtle Beach to New Jersey says a new terminal does make a difference.

"It's modern, you can get in and out a little bit quicker than the old ways and it'll help," said Eric Zumpfe. "The more people we can get in here, the better off our economy will be."

Lovell said the new airport still has seven gates, the same number as before, but now that the new terminal is open, work can begin on renovating the old structure. That will eventually add six more gates for a total of 13.