OUR OPINION: Silver’s performance remains airport issue

By NEMS Daily Journal

Silver Airways continues its struggles to stabilize and assure reliability for its flights on the Tupelo/Atlanta route, as an angry letter from the relative of a customer who was left stranded over last weekend in Atlanta described in Tuesday’s Daily Journal.
Silver, which started its 18-flights-per-week schedule in October, is the successor to Mesaba, a regional Delta Air Lines subsidiary, which stopped its service because it was unprofitable, even under the Essential Air Service subsidy it received. Silver also is under EAS, a federal program to help maintain service at what could be characterized as struggling airports.
Silver, which is a restart of an older airline that declared bankruptcy and then emerged with a new name and some new routes, arguably has not been as unreliable as individual customers, in their personal situations, experienced. Every airline passenger would agree that any flight missed or canceled or long delayed becomes a gross inconvenience, potentially ruining family plans and/or business travel.
Silver, in its own defense, says most, but not all, of the recent flight cancellations were weather-related, which hooks into safety. Airplanes, being unequal machines, don’t all have the same weather capability.
Tupelo flyers, it should be noted, are not alone among Silver’s complaining customers. Passengers at some other airports have similar complaints.
The three-month run that forms Silver’s record in Tupelo has seen a 53 percent decline in passenger boardings compared to the same period a year ago, a steepening of the trend that was apparent during 2012, even when Delta was serving Tupelo Regional.
In fact, Tupelo boardings fell below 10,000 for the first time in recent memory, and that will cost the airport about $1 million in federal support during the 2014 budget cycle that begins in October.
The long-term trouble that weak and declining boardings pose is the main concern for the airport authority. Pushing Silver to be more efficient is a reasonable expectation, but any other carrier would be under the same pressure to provide service and schedules that could pull boardings back to healthy levels, which had been the long-term status of passenger service in Tupelo.
The path to follow is transparency with the traveling public by the Tupelo Airport Authority, airport executives and Silver Airways.