SeaPort to provide air service; could begin in October

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Tom Sieber, SeaPort Airlines' executive vice president, stands in front of one of the company's Cessna Grand Caravan planes during a July presentation at the Tupelo airport.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Tom Sieber, SeaPort Airlines’ executive vice president, stands in front of one of the company’s Cessna Grand Caravan planes during a July presentation at the Tupelo airport.

By Dennis Seid

Daily Journal

TUPELO – As expected, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected SeaPort Airlines to provide air service for Tupelo, following recommendations by the city and airport officials.

SeaPort begins its two-year contract once it determines when to launch its service in Tupelo. Officials hope it can begin in October, but details still are being worked out between SeaPort, outgoing provider Silver Airways, Tupelo Regional Airport and the Transportation Department.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com SeaPort Airlines will use a Cessna Grand Caravan that can seat nine people in addition to the pilot and co-pilot, and carry 1,100 pounds of baggage.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
SeaPort Airlines will use a Cessna Grand Caravan that can seat nine people in addition to the pilot and co-pilot, and carry 1,100 pounds of baggage.

Meanwhile, Greenville and Muscle Shoals, also hoping to get service through SeaPort, will be losing Silver service on Oct. 1. The two cities must wait on DOT’s decision in choosing an airline for their cities, which are in danger of losing service altogether because they haven’t met passenger number requirements.

As for the All-America City, Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said, “We are excited that SeaPort will be providing air service to the community. I expect that SeaPort will let us know soon the start date and how they plan to phase in air service with each connecting city.”

Indeed, a modification in the service schedule may be made when it begins in Tupelo. While SeaPort’s bid included 18 nonstop round trips per week to Nashville and 12 round trips to Memphis, the airline may phase in its service by providing to a single city – either Memphis or Nashville – in the early going.

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

“We expect Silver and SeaPort to work together to make a smooth transition at both communities,” DOT said in its order. “In that regard, before Silver suspends its service, we expect it to notify all passengers holding reservations for travel after the suspension date, to assist those passengers in making alternate air transportation arrangements, or to provide a refund of the ticket price, without penalty, if requested.”

Earlier this year, Silver said it would not seek to renew its air service contract in Tupelo, Greenville, Hattiesburg, Meridian and Muscle Shoals. Silver received an annual subsidy of more than $3.5 million during its time in Tupelo.

The Essential Air Service program, which provides the subsidized service to some 200 communities across the country, has suspended Greenville and Muscle Shoals from further service beyond Oct. 1 because they have not maintained an average of 10 boardings per service day. The cities are hoping for a waiver, however, to regain service.

“Their long-term status in the EAS program will not be known until the waiver process has concluded,” DOT said.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com

  • Peter6095

    NOTHING was said about Seaport’s possible phasing in of service to either Nashville or Memphis. When is Tupelo going to get the quality of air service it deserves? This begins with the airport executive director, continues with the Mayor and Town Council and ends with the Journal’s soft reporting and lack of advocacy.

  • Peter6095

    If a choice needs to be made, hopefully it will begin with Nashville. Flights to Memphis will fail.

  • facts

    Tupelo cannot support a Airport! “WHY” you may ask, 1, people are cheap they don’t want to pay for what it really cost- 2, not enough people to support – 3, to many other airports around doing the same thing. Let the federal funds support one airport that we all can use.

    I agree with you Peter6095- this paper is only going to report what is approved by the BLUE BLOOD families in this area or the sorry politicians and thats a fact!!!