The announcement of new flights aboard Sun Country Airlines came at the airport Monday morning.
The nonstop flights are as low as $59 one-way and will run Fridays and Mondays from July through December to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Southwest Florida International Airport.
The schedule on Friday and Monday is:
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- Austin to Gulfport-Biloxi — 10:10 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
- Gulfport-Biloxi to Ft. Myers— 12:40 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. (Eastern time)
- Ft. Myers to Gulfport-Biloxi 4 p.m. (Eastern time) to 4:35 p.m.
- Gulfport-Biloxi to Austin 5:35 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
Clay Williams, executive director at GPT, said Coast travelers can leave on Friday and return on Monday or stay for a week or longer.
It’s also possible to fly to one of the cities on Friday or Monday, return through Gulfport and continue on to the second city, he said. That allows them to enjoy Austin, famous for its 250 music venues, food and events, as well as visit Ft. Myers’ for its beaches, fishing and shopping.
Sun Country already has seasonal flights to its home city at Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. With the new additions, Sun Country has 87 routes across 52 airports, said Kirsten Wenker, manager of communications for the airline. She said 90 percent of the routes are seasonal.
The flights broaden the opportunity for Coast residents to travel, said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, and bring people from these cities to discover South Mississippi.
“This may be the easiest airport to use in the country,” Hewes said, since travelers can be at the beach in minutes.
“Both of these places are exciting cities,” said Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich.
The planes don’t just provide opportunities for tourism for Coast residents — they will bring economic opportunities, officials said.
With high-tech jobs and activity at Stennis Space Center and Austin as one of the top three tech areas of the country, “this will be a good opportunity to bring them all together,” said Dave Dennis, a member of the airport board.
The biggest challenge for Mississippi tourism and development is “convincing people to come here once,” said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. Once here, he said visitors tend to really like what they see, how they’re treated, the food and the opportunities for fun.
“We in Mississippi are relationship people,” said Glenn McCullough, director of the Mississippi Development Authority. This week 37 ambassadors from around the world are convened on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he said, and discovered “a genuine reception” in a beautiful place.
“Mississippi’s on a roll,” he said. “We’re confident. We’re hopeful.”
The airport has a $299 million annual economic impact, said Williams, and the airport director said ridership was up 11 percent last year.
“Both of these markets have the potential for both inbound and outbound,” he said of Austin and Ft. Myers.
“The key is utilization. We need our local residents to use the service,” he said.
Tickets will be available to the public starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at suncountry.com