By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Silver Airways began commercial air service nearly a year ago, but it’s been anything but a smooth flight.
“From our perspective, there was not a really good takeoff, so to speak, last year,” said Greenville Mayor John Cox.
The initial flight was severely delayed because of weather, then problems with the airline’s website and reservation system cropped up. Delayed and canceled flights also plagued the airline during the first few months of service.
But the mayors and airport directors of Greenville and Tupelo – both of which are getting the federally subsidized air service – say the airline has improved dramatically, and are encouraging the public to fly Silver as much as it can.
Cox brought Greenville Mid-Delta Airport Director Draylan Gant and other city leaders to meet their Tupelo counterparts on Thursday to promote Silver, as well as develop their regional partnership.
Silver provides 18 weekly flights from Tupelo to Atlanta, with the flights originating and ending in Greenville.
“Our cities depend on each other for success,” Cox said, “so we want to work together and build our relationship.”
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. had earlier talks with Cox, and he was hoping to strengthen those ties as well.
“I support Mayor Cox and the leadership in Greenville for being proactive with the city of Tupelo to come up with ideas that we think will be mutually beneficial to our cities and our region,” Shelton said. “Air service is tied to economic development and quality of life, and we need to do everything we can do to promote it and get more people to use the service.”
Boardings are down 44 percent compared to last year in Tupelo, and about 50 percent in Greenville. Last year both cities were served by Delta Air Lines, which flew to Memphis. The airline had said it would pull out of more than two dozen cities, including Greenville and Tupelo, leaving smaller airlines like Silver to bid for the service.
Gant said Atlanta is a better alternative for people in both cities, and that he’s happy with the service.
“We just need to get more people getting on board.”
Greenville city councilman Errick Simmons, who also sits on the airport board, said Atlanta offers far more connections and international destinations than Memphis, a message that hasn’t been communicated well enough.
Both mayors and airport directors said they could continue to discuss ways to generate more interest and usage of Silver Airways.
“Just give them a chance,” Simmons said.