SeaPort: Cost may nix route to Memphis

SIEBER

SIEBER

By Dennis Seid

Daily journal

TUPELO – SeaPort Airlines had hoped to begin service in Tupelo by providing flights to both Memphis and Nashville, but increased costs in Memphis has put a damper on those plans, at least for now.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation tapped the Portland, Oregon-based airline to begin service in Tupelo – as recommended by airport officials. SeaPort, perhaps in October, will take over for Silver Airways, which suffered reliability issues during its two-year run in Tupelo.

But SeaPort says the 18 weekly flights to Nashville and the 12 weekly flights to Memphis as proposed in its bid for Tupelo service may be phased in, starting with a Nashville-only link whenever service begins.

“Our issue in potentially delaying service to Memphis involves higher-than-anticipated costs to conduct business at the main terminal in Memphis International Airport,” said Tim Sieber, SeaPort’s executive vice president. “We had a plan on the shelf, ready to go from about a year ago but when we dusted it off the costs came in much higher than previously quoted.”

Sieber didn’t go into detail about those increased costs, but other reports reveal that in May, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority proposed, and then adopted, its 2015 fiscal year budget. The budget lowered landing fees 11 percent but raised terminal rates by nearly 68 percent. The board said the increase in terminal rent was necessary to help offset the reduction in space by Delta Air Lines.

With the new budget, rates jump from $86.31 per square foot last year to $144.78 this year. That follows a 17 percent hike in 2014 when rates increased from $73.58 the previous year.

If SeaPort can’t work out a solution with Memphis before launching its service in Tupelo, then it will simply shift service to Nashville and increase the number of flights.

“If we have to do this, we hope it is only a temporary situation but cannot provide a timeline as of yet,” he said.

The Transportation Department on Wednesday announced it had selected SeaPort over Air Choice One’s proposal, awarding the carrier a two-year contract paying $2.5 million annually. SeaPort will use nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan planes.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com

  • harryblah

    those city council monkeys will never understand that you need more traffic to come into the airport, not a little sand piper transporting about 8 people at a time. getting a real regional carrier would benefit greatly. but since they worshipped delta and threw northwest under the bus, it’s all that the city deserves. wasting millions on a airport that doesn’t even look like it’s in operation. at least we can blame terry Anderson for wasting 6 million to build that eyesore that gets no traffic and the city council for wasting city money. I wonder when a state investigation will happen, it would be nice to see more of tupelo’s finest corrupt city officials go to prison.

  • tupelobeware

    It’s a sure bet that Harry Blasé blames President Bush for Benghazi too. It’s been reported that during Anderson’s tenure, that Delta increased the boardings to more than 32,000 and the passengers to more than 60,000 at Tupelo. Did Anderson have something to do with the
    Delta-Northwest merger? And Delta’s pulling out of Memphis? Come on Cowboy, get real. It’s the current leadership that has made the poor decisions and then tried to cover them up.

    Seaport is Silver deja vue!

    Try making a reservation or even finding a way to make a reservation. Call the Director. The ticketing system is not functional.

    The Chairman of Tupelo’s Air Service Committee pointed out months ago to Tupelo’s Director that Seaport did not have a gate at MEM.

    MEM Director raised gate leases 68% in May to offset revenue loss from Delta’s departure yet Tupelo’s Director says he can’t raise lease costs for the mismanagement and poor lease arrangements in Tupelo. Hogwash!

    A temp worker uncovered tens of thousands of missing revenue. Director wanted it white washed.

    Public FBO management company uses their private maintenance company to inflate aircraft repair costs and then awards them the contract.

    Private FBO Management renting aircraft without a current registration and blaming the pilots’ renting them.

    BLAME BUSH.

    • harryblah

      tupelotuperware: the most passengers the airport ever saw was in 2006 and that was 32,000 not no 60,000. delta came in in august and even then the flights were never full. I would know I worked there during that time. I sat in on those stupid meetings with Anderson and the tsa cronies. it’s up to the city council monkeys to do research before saying “come on” to an airline. they knew before all that leaked out. Memphis flights were always booked coming in and going out every flight. I saw many delta flights with as few as 10 or less passengers were aboard. they cancelled flights when there was no problem, claiming too much traffic in atl. I could go out and spit on the windshield of the plane and they’d cancel the flight. so tuperware, don’t talk about what you don’t know. you would be amazed to know what your tax dollars paid for out there at the airport.

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