CLEARWATER — It was a banner May in what has been a banner year at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.
The airport reported serving 83,595 passengers in May, officials said. That's a 28 percent boost in the 65,232 travelers the airport served in May 2012. It was also the busiest May since 2004, when the airport set a record for that month with 106,433 passengers.
This past May also helped fuel a strong 2013 at the airport as well. In the first five months of this year, St. Pete-Clearwater International reported serving 435,575 passengers. That's an increase of 11 percent from the same time period in 2012.
Airport officials credit 2013's strong passenger numbers to the record number of tourists flocking to Pinellas County this year. In March, Pinellas set an all-time record by collecting $4.9 million in tourist development taxes, a 5 percent tax tacked onto every hotel room and rental that is a significant indicator of the tourism trade's strength.
Allegiant Air, the dominant carrier of St. Pete-Clearwater International, is the other reason for the airport's success this year. Allegiant, which started serving the airport in 2006, has been adding bigger planes that carry more passengers and a new destination, Asheville, N.C., on June 6. That's the airline's 25th route to the area. Allegiant handles 90 percent of the passengers who use the airport.