Mesaba ordered to continue flights through February

TUPELO – Mesaba will provide air service in Tupelo at least through mid-February.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered Mesaba to extend its service obligation in Tupelo and three other cities through Feb. 12.
Four other cities have been notified that they’ll have new air carriers soon, but Tupelo will have to wait a little longer since the DOT hasn’t chosen a carrier yet.
Mesaba on July 14 notified DOT of its intent to suspend service in eight cities, including Tupelo, but was ordered to continue service through Nov. 12. The DOT later extended Mesaba’s obligation through Jan. 13.
Mesaba said it could no longer provide service unless it received a federal subsidy through the DOT’s Essential Air Service Program.
But four of those cities have been notified they’ll be getting air service provided by another carrier besides Mesaba.
In a letter dated Jan. 5, the DOT said SkyWest Airlines would provide replacement service in Eau Claire, Wis.; Hancock/Haughton, Mich.; Muskegon, Mich.; and Paducah, Ky.
SkyWest will begin service in Muskegon and Paducah on Feb. 11 and at Eau Claire and Hancock/Houghton on Feb. 28.
“However, since the carrier selection process is still in progress at some communities and replacement service will not have been inaugurated at the others, …. we will require Mesaba to provide the service levels at all eight communities” through Feb. 12, the DOT said.
The DOT said it would notify the airport directors and mayors in the eight cities of Mesaba’s service extension, but Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. had not heard from Mesaba as of Wednesday. Officials with the Tupelo Regional Airport and the Tupelo Airport Authority also said they had not received word from DOT.
Mesaba submitted a package of four proposals to DOT to provide EAS service in Tupelo. SeaPort Airlines also submitted a bid. But Reed last month submitted a letter to DOT that said the city preferred Mesaba.
A SeaPort official said Tuesday that Reed’s letter all but eliminated SeaPort’s chances of having its bid selected.
But an EAS spokesman said all comments and bids were still under consideration.
“My thought is they may be taking more time to decide which option from Mesaba to accept, or they may be looking at Mesaba’s cost figures that were proposed, or they may be getting input from other sources,” said Tupelo Airport Authority Chairman Dan Kellum. “But it is important for Tupelo as a community to maintain commercial air service.”

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal