Tupelo Airport Authority’s efforts to upgrade and expand comme

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Tupelo Airport Authority’s efforts to upgrade and expand commercial airline service dipped to a discouragingly bleak outlook earlier this year after American Eagle terminated service to Nashville and Atlantic Southeast Airlines turned down efforts to start Tupelo-Atlanta flights.

Tupelo Municipal Airport was left with Northwest Airlink’s flights to and from Memphis, but those were and are on 19-seat aircraft. Northwest would go no further at first than saying it would consider upgrading service to a larger and more popular 33-seat Saab airliner sometime in 1997.

Authority members and marketing director Jim Newman kept plugging away knocking on doors previously closed and intensifying contacts with Northwest officials. People began listening to Tupelo’s selling points.

The airport authority heard this week from Newman that Northwest Airlink plans an announcement within days that in about two months it will begin using the 33-seat Saab for its evening flight from Memphis. The larger airplane, it is hoped, will encourage more Tupelo boardings because it will make evening returns easier and “bumping” because of overbooking less frequent.

On another marketing front, Newman said ASA had opened its door to a second look toward Tupelo. Newman said ASA’s president had agreed to visit Tupelo as the guest of the airport authority at a date not yet announced.

The anticipated Northwest announcement and the prospect of getting ASA’s top executive to Tupelo require more than the work of the airport authority. A communitywide effort must be made to support upgraded Northwest service and to sell ASA on Tupelo’s potential. It’s widely known that many prospects have visited Tupelo and the area with a skeptical attitude and left with at least verbal commitments to do business in Tupelo, Lee County and Northeast Mississippi.

The airport’s regional appeal could be enhanced with a simple name change to something like Northeast Regional Airport. The name change, in fact, would be more in keeping with Tupelo’s role as the economic, industrial and services hub of Northeast Mississippi. It suggests the airport’s broader reach and its passenger-market potential.

Tupelo, Lee County and the rest of Northeast Mississippi operate in a worldwide marketplace. The city, county and region need the kind of air service that makes the global marketplace easily accessible with timely, adequate connections through international airports like Memphis and Atlanta.

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