Hilton Head Vacations Just Got Easier With the HHH Runway Expansion
For as long as we can remember, if you wanted to fly directly to Hilton Head Island, you had no choice but to fly into Charlotte, NC and take a puddle-jumper to Hilton Head Airport, because the runway just wasn’t long enough to accommodate larger planes. This meant many visitors chose to fly into the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport near Savannah, GA and make the 45-minute drive to the island, so they would have more airline and flight options.
Hilton Head vacations just got easier with the completion of a long and sometimes hotly-debated $27.5 million runway extension project that began in February of 2017. Now, those flying to and from, Hilton Head Island will have more options. The project, largely funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, is expected to bring in more visitors and allow easier travel by adding direct routes across the country to places like Atlanta and New York and allowing larger planes to utilize the updated airport.
The FAA cited safety issues and completed a master plan in 2010 that recommended the runway be extended from 4300 feet to 5300 feet. Public outcry regarding concern about noise and environmental issues resulted in a compromise of 5000 feet. The project raised public concern regarding noise levels, tree removal, lower property values and negative effects on nearby Mitchelville, although the FAA stated in 2015 that there would be little impact from the expansion and improvements. 7 buildings and some trees had to be removed for the renovations, and a taxiway was relocated and upgraded to meet new FAA standards. The $7.9 million taxiway relocation was completed in 2017.
The airport expansion project completed in summer of 2018, and included extending and repaving of the runway, updating of pavement markings, lighting, and a new Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) which is similar to a runaway truck lane for planes. Larger, more modern planes can now utilize the island airport, which in turn is attracting more airlines and will result in more choices and better prices for both visitors and locals. About 30,000 people use the airport every year to the tune of $166 million, and most of those numbers are generated from April through October. It’s expected these numbers will grow with the completion of the project as more airlines start offering flights.
Delta, who stopped serving the island in 2010, recently announced 3 daily non-stop flights from Hilton Head Island to Atlanta starting May 23, 2019, and on June 8 are to begin Saturday flights to LaGuardia.
American Airlines will begin direct flights from HHH to Washington Reagan Airport (DCA) starting on May 4th.
United Airlines has three new routes coming to Hilton Head Island Airport. On March 31, 2019 two daily flights will be available to and from Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Then on April 6th, 2019, United will have twice weekly service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and weekly service to New York/Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Although nothing has been formally announced, it’s expected that other airlines such as Southwest, Allegiant Air, Frontier and Jet Blue will also begin to offer flights to the island, so keep an eye out for new flights from new airlines to get to your island vacation destination more quickly and economically.