By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Airport officials last week were caught off guard after hearing that Mesaba Airlines’ Tupelo-to-Memphis flight would be switching from the early morning to the late afternoon in April.
But the good news is that it’s temporary.
Even better, Tupelo Regional Airport will be back to three daily flights in June.
A spokesman for Delta Air Lines, which owns Mesaba, confirmed that the current 7 a.m. flight from Tupelo to Memphis will move to after 5 p.m. on April 5 – but only until May 1.
The spokesman, Kent Landers, also confirmed the return of the three-flight schedule on June 10, with morning and afternoon flights to Memphis and a mid-morning flight to Atlanta.
“The changes in April are temporary and will be adjusted to respect the community’s request for additional flights,” he said.
The April change was caused by “aircraft scheduling issues,” he said.
“But we will be offering the three flights,” he said.
Eight months ago, Mesaba threatened to stop air service in Tupelo and seven other cities unless it received a subsidy through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program.
The DOT ordered Mesaba to continue service until it could gather bids from airlines interested in providing air service. Mesaba, and SeaPort Airlines of Portland, submitted bids in December.
City officials said they preferred Mesaba since it was connected to a major carrier. Mesaba offered four proposals in its bid package, ranging from a little over $1 million to nearly $2 million.
On Tuesday, airport and city officials were elated by the latest news.
“It is great to have the availability of three flights to and from Tupelo for the community,” said Tupelo Airport Authority Chairman Dan Kellum. “We need to realize as a community that we need to use this service to be able to keep it. If we don’t use it we could lose it.”
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. also was pleased.
“It looks like our two-prong strategy of patience and persistence may be paying off,” he said. “In my most recent conversation with Delta, it appears that Delta is adding the third flight in June on good faith that their negotiations with the Department of Transportation will be successful and that Tupelo flyers will support it.”
A spokesman for the EAS said the agency was still reviewing the matter and that nothing was official.
But Landers confirmed that starting on June 10, flights from Tupelo to Memphis will depart at 7 a.m. and 5:23 p.m. The Tupelo to Atlanta flight will leave at 10:26 a.m.
Arrivals from Memphis will be at 9:15 a.m. and 7:20 p.m., while arrivals from Atlanta will be at 4 p.m.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping up with the changes
• Until April 4, passengers can fly out of Tupelo to Memphis at 7 a.m. and to Atlanta at 10:30 a.m.
• From April 5 to April 30, the Tupelo-to-Memphis flight will leave at about 5:30 p.m. The Tupelo-Atlanta flight is unchanged.
• On May 1, the Tupelo-to-Memphis flight will return to 7 a.m. The Tupelo-Atlanta flight is unchanged.
• On June 10, there will be two Tupelo-to-Memphis flights – at 7 a.m. and 5:23 p.m. The Atlanta flight is at 10:23 a.m.