TUPELO – Tupelo Regional Airport will lose two flights but gain one if federal authorities approve a Delta Air Lines proposal.
Delta said Thursday it wants to eliminate two of the three Tupelo-to-Memphis flights it now runs. The two flights also make stops in Muscle Shoals, Ala., a “tag” that Tupelo Regional officials say has dampened passenger boardings because of reliability and dependability issues.
TRA Executive Director Terry Anderson called the proposal “a positive step.”
Delta wants to implement its plan July 1.
“One of the things to look at … is that Tupelo will have access to approximately 150 domestic destinations and 77 international destinations,” said Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott.
Delta began non-stop jet service between Tupelo and Atlanta in June 2005, but pulled out in January 2008. The airline said its move was part of a cutback in operations.
But Thursday’s news is welcome, although there are many details to work out, including the departure times of the flights.
Anderson said negotiations are under way, and getting the flights that will be most useful and convenient to fliers is top priority.
“Past history has shown that an early morning flight to Memphis has been the most successful,” he said. “For Atlanta, a noon flight works best.”
Doing so might help the sagging number of passenger boardings in Tupelo, which dropped from a record 31,000 in 2006 to less than 16,000 last year. It’s the smallest number of passengers since 1999.
Elliott said the new flights out of Tupelo would continue to use the Saab 340 turboprop plane flown by its regional carrier Mesaba.
The plane has seating for 34 passengers, but Anderson said that, with luggage, the plane can hold a maximum of about 28 passengers.
Mesaba is a subsidiary of Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta last year.
As for passengers looking to fly out of Tupelo after June 30, Anderson said flight information will be posted as soon as the schedule is worked out.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal