Passenger traffic up at Tupelo airport

TUPELO – For the first time in a year, monthly passenger boardings at Tupelo Regional Airport reached more than 1,000.
June’s 1,298 boardings also were a 40 percent pickup from May.
But airport Executive Director Josh Abramson warned that a turnaround isn’t imminent.
“It’s hard to tell with small numbers,” he said. “One month doesn’t make a trend.”
In fact, the June boardings were 30 percent fewer than June 2009, and overall boardings for the year are down by nearly a third compared to the same period last year.
However, Delta Air Lines had three daily flights from Tupelo for the first six months of last year. From July until June 10 of this year, only two daily flights were available.
But Tupelo Regional is back to having three flights temporarily.
Through the summer, Delta has scheduled two daily flights to Memphis and one daily flight to Atlanta.
Also, airport and city officials kicked off a “Fly Tupelo” campaign to encourage area residents to use Tupelo Regional as much as possible. They hope that increased passenger traffic will convince Delta it should maintain a third flight.
Abramson said the June pickup can be attributed partially to the third flight.
“It seems to have had a good load factor,” he said, using the airline industry term referring to the percentage of available seats that are filled with paying passengers.
But that “break-even” load factor will determine whether Delta maintains that additional flight.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation agreed to subsidize 15 weekly flights from Tupelo through the Essential Air Service program. That means two flights a day from Tupelo six days a week and three flights one day. If Tupelo wants that third flight the other six days, Delta would have to absorb the cost, and the airline has indicated in the past that it is not a profitable flight.

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

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal