By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – In an anticipated move, the U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered Delta Air Lines to continue providing service in Tupelo until a replacement carrier is found.
On July 15, the airline said it could no longer serve 16 small airports across the country. Included on the list was Tupelo, Greenville and Hattiesburg.
Delta receives a federal subsidy through the Essential Air Service program to fly in those cities. In Greenville, it receives $1.6 million a year; in Hattiesburg nearly $1.4 million; and in Tupelo, more than $920,000.
On Tuesday, the DOT said it “prohibits” Delta and its subsidiaries “from suspending service at the end of their 90-day notice period and requires them to continue providing service consistent with the level we are currently subsidizing through Nov. 12 or until a carrier capable of providing reliable essential air service actually begins service, whichever comes first.”
A DOT spokesman said earlier that if a bid for service is not acceptable or is not submitted, it can extend the process.
The agency is accepting proposals through Oct. 12.
“Shortly afterwards, we will provide a summary of the proposals to the community officials and ask them to submit their final comments,” the department said.
“We also retain the discretion to reject outright all unreasonable or unrealistic proposals and solicit a new round of proposals.”
By statute, the agency said it can subsidize 12 to 14 weekly round-trip flights per week for aircraft with 30 seats or larger.
It also said it would be willing to consider subsidizing additional flights in any community if the service were linked with another community.