By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Silver Airways expects to start flying passengers from Tupelo Regional Airport to Atlanta beginning Oct. 1, officials said.
Mickey Bowman, vice president of essential air service at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline, said the airline also would begin selling tickets Aug. 1.
“We want to begin selling 60 days out,” he said.
Last month, Silver was tapped by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide service for Tupelo, Greenville and Hattiesburg-Laurel in Mississippi, as well as for Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Lewisburg, W.V.
Silver replaces Delta Air Lines, which last year said it was ending service from those communities to Memphis. The DOT, through its Essential Air Service program, had provided subsidies for Delta to continue service until a new carrier was found.
Silver will fly 34-passenger twin-engine Saab 340 turboprop planes, which long served Tupelo and other smaller airports across the state via Northwest Airlines, and eventually Delta, which merged with Northwest a few years ago.
Silver is formerly known as Gulfstream International Airlines.
It has six Saab 340s in its fleet, providing service to the Bahamas from Florida. It is in the process of adding six more after reaching a deal with Saab Aircraft Leasing in March. They are expected to be delivered by September.
Asked if Silver will have enough planes to serve its new markets, Bowman said, “Yes we will. We have already scheduled all of the aircraft, so it will not be an issue.”
Bowman added the airline is regularly communicating with the DOT to update the status of its fleet and its operations.
In its successful bid to provide air service to the cities, Silver will provide 18 weekly round-trip flights between Tupelo and Atlanta – with a link with Greenville – and 12 weekly flights between Hattiesburg-Laurel and Atlanta. Silver also is providing 12 weekly flights between Muscle Shoals and Atlanta and 12 weekly flights between Lewisburg and Atlanta.
In its “all or nothing” proposal for service to all the cities, Silver will receive a two-year guaranteed subsidy totaling nearly $16.1 million. The Hattiesburg subsidy will cost $2.97 million, while the Greenville-Tupelo subsidy will cost $7.04 million.
In the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Silver Airways CEO Darrell Richardson said the company’s further expansion into Florida and elsewhere across the county was “another important step forward in our drive to become the No. 1 regional airline in the country.”
Silver operates more than 100 daily scheduled flights including to and from 29 Florida gateways, the Bahamas, Montana, Ohio and New York.
Silver is working with Delta for interline and baggage agreements and Bowman said by the time service begins in Tupelo, passengers will be able to purchase tickets from the airlines’ websites as well as online travel sites.