HED: Tupelo airport considering name change
By Marty Russell
To paraphrase Shakespeare, an airport by any other name might be an easier sell.
The Tupelo Municipal Airport’s marketing director recommended to the facility’s governing board Tuesday night that the airport change its name to reflect a more regional nature that could make it more enticing to potential air carriers approached about serving the area.
Jim Newman, the airport’s marketing director, suggested the name change but left it up to the airport authority to come up with a new one.
“This is not the Tupelo Municipal Airport,” Newman said. “We own it. We run it. But if we had to rely just on Tupelo (for passengers), we’d be in trouble.”
Airport Manager Roger Blickensderfer said there are no figures to show how many passengers from outside the city caught flights out of the airport but said routine checks of license plates in the parking lot indicated about 40 percent of traffic came from outside Lee County.
Newman, who is attempting to lure another carrier to the city after American Eagle pulled out in January, said the name change would not only reflect the regional nature of the facility and possibly lead to funding from sources outside of Tupelo but would also help sell the facility to air service operators.
“If you say Tupelo, they look at the map and see Tupelo,” Newman said. “If you say Northeast Mississippi, they look at the map and see Corinth, Oxford, West Point and all these other communities.”
Changing the name could present a legal problem, however. Airport attorney Jamie Barnett said, under state statutes, the facility has to operate as a municipal entity since its current funding and governing authority is the city. Changing to a regional facility, even in name only, could require that other communities have a voice on the board, especially if money is contributed from those outside communities.
The airport authority instructed Barnett to look into any conflicts and suggest some new names but indicated no change in the current governing structure was desired.
“I think we should let our attorney and Roger and Jim get together and figure out the ramifications of how we can go about this without jeopardizing this airport authority,” said Vice Chairman Joe Washington who chaired Tuesday’s meeting.
In other business, the board agreed to a change in the contract for the two rental car agencies located at the airport due to a decline in business from people using the airport. The facility is down to one carrier, Northwest Airlink, since American left.
Northwest boarded 891 passengers in April, down from 941 in March.
Under the new terms, Budget and Hertz will pay the airport 5 percent of their gross revenue up to $20,000 a month and 9.2 percent, the current rate, above $20,000 a month. The terms could be renegotiated if a second airline moves in and business increases.