They came and they failed. Miserably. Silver Airways, after a disastrous 18-month experiment to provide commercial air service in Tupelo, has thrown in the towel.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla-based airline last week gave its 90-day notice to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Tupelo, Hattiesburg, Greenville and Meridian that it was ending its routes to Atlanta.
Silver, however, is required to continue its subsidized service until a substitute carrier is selected by the DOT.
So, more late and canceled flights are on the horizon for those cities.
To be sure, everybody was hoping for the best that Silver would succeed. It had the 34-passenger Saab turboprops that passengers in Tupelo enjoyed for years through Northwest and Delta. It was flying into Atlanta, a hub to go anywhere in the world.
City leaders from Tupelo and outside Tupelo threw their support behind Silver. The alternative was another carrier’s 9-seat single-engine plane, with a promise to move up to an 18-seat plane the next year.
The Transportation Department chose Silver’s two-year, $16.1 million bid, but noted that it was concerned about the higher price. However, Tupelo, like the other cities, all thought Silver was the better option.
We were sadly mistaken.
Trouble began brewing when the airline pushed back its start date. Then its online ticketing was a mess, and other website issues continued to plague the airline. Promises to get a code-share agreement with Delta and a link with the SkyMiles frequent flyer program were never met.
The first flight out of Tupelo to Atlanta was delayed for more than eight hours, but weather had a big role in that.
But weather wasn’t the cause of countless other delays and cancellations during the past 18 months.
Silver said new federal limitations caused a pilot shortage – which is indeed an industry-wide problem with the regional airlines. And it said “significantly lower than expected passenger enplanements” made it “uneconomical” for the airline to continue flying.
But it didn’t mention its own poor record or its sheer incompetence in trying to run its operations. Reliability was a foreign concept.
One of our photographers went to Tupelo Regional to shoot the incoming flight from Greenville on Wednesday. Surprise – it was 90 minutes late.
Airport and city officials were as patient as they could be with Silver, but the public was far less forgiving, and who could blame them? Having a flight canceled and being stranded in an airport hundreds of miles away doesn’t inspire confidence.
Perhaps in this next round of bidding, we can get a reliable airline, one that will under-promise and over-deliver rather than the other way around.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org