The days of hopping aboard a commercial 50-seat regional jet in Tupelo to Nashville, Atlanta or some other destination are over.
That time passed when Delta withdrew from here and many of its smaller markets. Big airlines are shrinking their regional fleets and abandoning smaller cities, leaving smaller companies to take over.
Flying on the old workhorse Saab 340 and its 30-seat configuration was nice while we had it, but Silver ruined it for everyone with its inept service.
So now we’re left with two small airlines using single-engine planes – the Cessna Grand Cessna – that can seat either eight or nine people. The luggage sits underneath, so there’s no shifting in the overhead bins to worry about.
The question is will the general public hop aboard?
Essentially, Air Choice One and Silver Airlines are air taxis. They’ll fly you to either Memphis or Nashville for a fee.
You’ll still have to buy a ticket with a traditional airline – Delta, Southwest, American, Frontier, whoever – to reach your next destination.
Ideally you could get to one of the airlines and get one ticket that gets you, your luggage and everything and everyone through. But those interline agreements aren’t in place. SeaPort says it has the technology to do it, if the big boys play along. And there are no code-share agreements either.
Remember, it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than the opposite.
So why would you pay either Air Choice One or Silver to fly you to Memphis or Nashville? Well, you’d avoid having to drive yourself and avoid the parking fees.
Driving to Memphis isn’t a big deal for many people. Unless you missed a flight or had it canceled. But Nashville is a different story. It is not a short drive to Music City.
Paying $59, $79 or whatever the rate may be to be flown there is appealing.
Air Choice One and SeaPort Airlines believe that keeping the fares low enough and ensuring the flights are on-time will lure passengers back to Tupelo.
They both realize that Delta and Silver have done Tupelo no favors.
Flying 30 times a week to Memphis and Nashville isn’t a lot, but if more people start using the airline, whichever is chosen, then more flights could be added.
SeaPort, for example, added an extra flight in one city on its own dime because the demand was there. It’s a possibility in Tupelo, too.
Each airline said it would add more flights before adding bigger planes, because the next available plane on the market seats 40. That’s a big leap from a nine-seater. But instead of say, three flights a day between Tupelo and Nashville, there might be four or five – if demand warrants it.
Neither airline is promising the world. But they are saying they’re willing to work hard with and in the community. Something Silver didn’t do during its time.
Now it boils down to whether or not we’re willing to let either Air Choice One or SeaPort Airlines show us what they can do.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org