By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – If Silver Airways’ bid to provide subsidized air service in Tupelo isn’t accepted by the federal government, it isn’t for lack of support.
The mayors of Tupelo, Greenville, Hattiesburg and Muscle Shoals, Ala., – all cities looking for another air carrier to replace Delta Air Lines – have thrown their support behind Silver.
The other bidder, Air Choice One, was rejected.
In a joint letter, the city leaders said they “unanimously and without reservation endorse Sliver Airways.”
Silver has proposed to operate commercial air service from all four cities to Atlanta.
The airline will use 34-seat Saab 340 turboprop aircraft, which Delta used for many years before switching to larger regional jets last year.
The mayors said the ticket and bag agreements Silver has with major airlines, as well as its “extensive and successful experience” in providing subsidized service in 13 communities were convincing arguments.
Delta last year told 24 communities nationwide – including the previously mentioned cities – it could no longer provide air service, even though it receives federal subsidies through the Essential Air Service program.
EAS, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, subsidizes service in some 150 airports nationwide for about $180 million annually.
In Tupelo, Delta receives about $1.6 million.
The mayors said they prefer Silver’s “option 1” for their service. For Hattiesburg, that would mean 12 nonstop, round-trip flights between Atlanta and Muscle Shoals and 18 flights weekly on a “paired” routing between Greenville, Tupelo and Atlanta.
Service through Tupelo would include three flights daily Monday through Friday, one flight on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Silver is asking for a total subsidy of more than $12.6 million to provide service to all four cities to Atlanta.
Also throwing their support behind Silver Airways’ bid for Tupelo are the mayors of Amory, Hernando, Shuqualak, Southaven, Walls and Woodland. In addition, Randy Kelley, executive director of Three Rivers Planning and Development District, also weighed in with a letter of support. Airport directors and chambers of commerce also lent their support.
“We urge the Department (of Transportation) to promptly select Silver Airways as our replacement carrier … and to ensure a smooth transition during 2012,” the mayors concluded in their letter.