Momentum strengthened significantly last week in efforts to achieve both the long- and short-term development goals of Tupelo Regional Airport: guarantees of adequate service by Delta Air Lines and its partners – and the eventual lengthening of the airport’s runway to serve heavier loads and bigger aircraft.
A joint press release bore the names of U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran, Roger Wicker, and 1st District U.S. Rep. Travis Childers – bipartisan backing for service guarantees under the Essential Air Service program of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Earlier in the week, the Tupelo City Council and the Tupelo Airport Authority tacitly reached détente about the joined issues of lengthening the airport’s runway and the possible relocation and/or alteration of West Jackson Street, including a possible tunnel under a restricted zone.
Those developments indicate that necessary conversation among leaders in unofficial settings produced an understanding that Tupelo must move forward in unity if it is to move forward at all.
Common ground has always linked the authority and the City Council. The goal has been constant capital improvement of Tupelo Regional, sustained commercial air service, and a steady eye on the possibilities of the future.
The West Jackson issue is important, and it can be resolved in full cooperation involving all of the oversight authorities.
Cochran, Wicker and Childers called on the Department of Transportation to ensure at least three daily flights at Tupelo Regional. The timing of the joint statement is important because DOT will announce a decision within days on how many flights, schedules and connections.
Essential Air Service (EAS) involves a federal subsidy to help make the flights profitable. It is widely used by cities like Tupelo, Meridian and Hattiesburg which need commercial service but whose passenger volume, at least for a time, is too low for profitability.
In their letter to DOT Acting Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Christa Fornarotto, the three lawmakers made, in summary, a perfect economic development pitch:
“As you know, the region has great potential for continued growth, and market analysis shows demand for higher frequency air service. Action by the Department should not injure the local economy, hinder the region’s ability to maintain and expand the employment base, or limit the opportunity to attract new development.”
We applaud their bipartisanship for Northeast Mississippi air service – a big link in the economic development chain.
We hope Washington’s response complements the positive work within Tupelo and the region.
NEMS Daily Journal