Published: Jul 22, 2011 3:35 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 22, 2011 2:33 AM EDT

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Airline ticket sales are taking off at Punta Gorda Airport. A growing number of destinations and discount tickets are drawing more passengers to Charlotte County.

"There was no line to wait in to get my ticket, getting on the plane, there was only like 15 of us. It was great," Cookie Wendt of Cape Coral said.

Aside from a relaxed atmosphere, the biggest draw, passengers say, is ticket prices. "The airline is very cheap," Ginny Moore of Port Charlotte said. "If you know when you are traveling in advance, you can get tickets for $29, $45, $89, one way. That's not even a tank of gas."

In June, traffic increased from 8,238 passengers to 14,130 - a nearly 72% jump from the same month last year. And in May, the airport saw a 106% increase from 6,629 last may to 13,685 this May.

Allegiant Air saw the biggest jump in passenger traffic, going from 4,817 passengers last jJune to 10,129 this June -a 110% increase.

"We are very happy about that, providing jobs in the community, another access point for people to come in and spend money in Southwest Florida," Airport Director Gary Quill said.

The airfield has come a long way from its early World War II pilot training days. Along with a new $4 million air traffic control tower set to open in the fall, they're also hoping to expand the holding room and ticketing areas in the next year and a half.

"We think job growth will continue, and maybe in a year and a half, have a significant jump as airline flights increase," Quill said.

In the first six months of this year alone, the airport saw 172,358 passengers. That's just 10-thousand fewer than what the airport saw in all of last year.

As traffic increases, airport leaders hope to add more destinations out of Punta Gorda.