American Airlines will begin operating larger aircraft this summer on its nonstop flights from Hilton Head Island to Charlotte.
The larger aircraft with 76 seats is expected to offer passengers first-class service.
The upgrade is the culmination of three years of infrastructure improvements, including a runway extension, according to Jon Rembold, Beaufort County airports director.
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“This runway extension allows airlines to re-evaluate Hilton Head Island Airport as a viable destination via regional jets,” the news release quotes Rembold as saying.
Last year, crews finished a $7.9 million taxiway relocation project that included the removal of trees and and drainage improvements for safety reasons.
Then a 700-foot extension was added to an existing runway to make it 5,000 feet. According to county documents, federal and state grants paid for about 95 percent of the more than $10 million cost of extending the runway.
The goal of the runway extension, Rumbold told The Island Packet last March, was to attract new airlines to the area.
Some airport neighbors opposed the runway extension, expressing concern at a 2014 meeting about increasing noise, tree removal, lowered property values and infringement on the Mitchelville community.
An environmental study by the FAA the next year said the extension would have little environmental impact.