By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
So the good news is that people wanting to fly out of Tupelo won’t have to worry about climbing aboard single-engine, nine- or 19-passenger planes to ferry them to Memphis. They also won’t have the “luxury” of flying those admittedly nice and comfortable regional jets Delta has been using.
In about four months, Silver Airways will be providing air service to Atlanta, thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation. And it will be using the 34-passenger Saab 340 turboprops, the same model Delta used to fly. Delta retired its fleet of Saabs last year.
Silver was the replacement carrier of choice for the DOT, which had to find a substitute for Delta, which has essentially bailed on small-community air service. Wasn’t in its financial interest to continue, the airline said, even with a subsidy.
Delta, by the way, is reducing its regional jet fleet as well, so those communities that do have them better watch out. You could be the next contestant on “the price isn’t right.”
But back to Silver.
The former Gulfstream International right now is flying from small Florida airports to the Bahamas. Soon it will be flying from Greenville, Tupelo, Hattiesburg, Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Lewisburg, W.V., to Atlanta. The company already had six 340s in its inventory and is getting six more, enough to cover those new markets. Let’s hope the planes are in good shape and are more reliable than when Delta flew them.
So the deal with Silver is that it has, or is close to, having interline and baggage agreements with Delta.
What exactly is an interline agreement? Let’s go to Wikipedia here:
“Interlining (also known as ‘interline ticketing’) is a voluntary commercial agreement between individual airlines to handle passengers traveling on itineraries that require multiple airlines.
“Interlining agreements differ from codesharing agreements in that codesharing agreements usually refers to numbering a flight with the airline’s code (abbreviation) even though the flight is operated by another airline. However, codeshare relationships can affect whether an interline ticket (or e-ticket) can be issued. Both the codeshare marketing carrier and codeshare operating carrier must have interline agreements with all other carriers in the itinerary to allow a single ticket to be issued.”
The DOT, while concerned about the $16.1 million, two-year subsidy for Silver to provide service to all those cities, said essentially the benefits outweighed the cost.
The 18 weekly round-trip flights between Tupelo and Atlanta also involve Greenville, in that the flights originate in Greenville, stop in Tupelo, then go to Atlanta and vice-versa.
The DOT breakdown projects 35,581 boardings during the two-year run. That breaks down to 19 passengers a flight (1,872 of them over the period).
Is that doable? Sure. In 2006 and 2007, a total of some 23,000 flew from Tupelo to Atlanta on those 50-seat regional jets. At the same time, some 36,000 flew from Tupelo to Memphis on Northwest’s Saab 340s. Those two years, by the way, were the best passenger numbers ever coming out of Tupelo Regional.
Soon we’ll have only one airline going to only one hub, and tickets are supposed to be more affordable. If Silver delivers on that promise, as well as on reliability, people will again fly Tupelo.
Dennis Seid is the business editor at the Daily Journal. Reach him at dennis.seid@journalinc .com or (662) 678-1578.