By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
In a widely expected move, Delta Air Lines confirmed Wednesday that regional jets will fly passengers from Tupelo Regional Airport, starting in September.
“We do plan to switch the service from the Saab 340 turboprops to CRJ-200 regional aircraft in September,” said Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter. “The reason for the switch is that we’re phasing the Saab 340s out of our fleet, as they are the least fuel-efficient aircraft that we operate.”
Last year, Delta said it planned to eliminate its Saab fleet by the end of this year, and Tupelo Regional Airport officials have been waiting for official word from the carrier.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said TRA Executive Director Josh Abramson. “People would rather fly in jets, but we’ll also have more seats to fill.”
The CRJ-200s can seat as many as 50 passengers, compared to 34 for the Saabs.
While passenger boardings in Tupelo have risen more than 17 percent for the first five months of the year compared to the same period a year ago, the numbers still aren’t enough for Delta to continue providing service without a federal subsidy.
Delta has a two-year, $974,000 annual contract through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program to provide 15 weekly flights to and from Memphis that expires July 2012.
As for any schedule changes because of the jets, Banstetter said none are planned.