By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – While Silver Airways announced last week it was ending commercial air service in Tupelo, officials with the Tupelo Regional Airport think a replacement carrier could be in place as early as August.
By law, Silver must continue service until a replacement is found. The U.S. Department of Transportation will issue an RFQ (request for proposal) for airlines interested in providing the service. The winning airline will get a federal subsidy, via the Essential Air Service program, to provide that service.
That RFQ could be out in the next couple of weeks, then as the proposals are entered, the public can weigh in on the options.
According to Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson, if everything falls into place, the winning carrier could be selected as early as June, with the new carrier perhaps operational by August.
However, that depends on the airline that’s selected, the number of planes in its fleet and the number of pilots it has.
Abramson also said getting a 50-seat regional jet, like the ones Delta Air Lines was using during the last few months it was providing service prior to leaving the market, and which it uses in Columbus, is not a likely option for Tupelo.
The problem, he said, is there’s not enough demand in Tupelo to fill a 50-seater, and even linking with Greenville or Muscle Shoals, as Delta and Silver have done, still won’t provide the numbers an airline would need to maintain profitability.
So who will bid for Tupelo’s service? It’s not known, but since Silver announced in February it was leaving the Cleveland market, the RFPs are due and the bidders for that service will be revealed soon. Abramson said Tupelo can take cues from that list of bidders.
Meanwhile, Silver’s flights will continue in and out of Tupelo until a replacement is found, Abramson reiterated. Also, updates to service, as available, will be put on the airport’s website.