By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Four airlines have submitted offers to the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide subsidized air service to Tupelo.
Silver Airways, which said in April it was ending its two-year run, must provide service at least until Aug. 7 or until a substitute service is selected.
The airlines submitting bids are: Aerodynamics Inc., Air Choice One, SeaPort Airlines and Sun Air. The companies are offering a variety of Tupelo to Atlanta and/or Tupelo to Nashville flights.
Two years ago, Air Choice One and SeaPort Airlines proposed service in Tupelo, but Silver Airways won the bid after Delta Air Lines announced it was leaving the Tupelo market.
Here’s a breakdown of the airlines’ proposals:
AERODYNAMICS INC: Submitted an “all or nothing” proposal to serve Laurel/Hattiesburg, Meridian and Tupelo with 50-seat Embraer 145 regional jets. It would offer 24 round trips per week between Tupelo and Atlanta. Subsidy cost: $3.83 million annually for a two-year contract for the Tupelo leg alone, and nearly $12.4 million for all three markets.
AIR CHOICE ONE: It is offering four options using nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan or nine-passenger Piper Navajo planes.
• Option 1 – 30 round trips per week between Tupelo and Memphis. Subsidy request: $2.9 million.
• Option 2 – 18 round trips per week between Tupelo and Memphis and 12 round trips per week between Tupelo and Nashville. Subsidy request: $3.5 million.
• Option 3 – 36 round trips per week between Tupelo and Memphis. Subsidy request: $3.3 million.
• Option 4 – 18 round trips per week between Tupelo and Memphis and 18 round trips per week between Tupelo and Nashville. Subsidy request: $3.9 million.
Air Choice One currently flies out of six cities. It recently had its Essential Air Service subsidy in Jonesboro, Arkansas, extended four years by the Department of Transportation.
SEAPORT AIRLINES: For Tupelo, it is proposing 12 round trips per week between Tupelo and Memphis and 18 round trips per week between Tupelo and Nashville on Cessna Grand Caravans. Subsidy cost: $2,506,436. SeaPort now flies out of 16 cities, and is about to add two more destinations this month.
SUN AIR: It would use Piper Navajo planes, offering 31 round trips per week between Tupelo and Memphis. Subsidy cost: $2,871,083. Sun Air currently flies out of six cities.
The next step is for the public to comment on its preferred choice of airline. Comments are due by July 9 and should be emailed to email@example.com.
Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said he’s requested a work session with the City Council to talk about the proposals as well and to share more insight into them.