It will take 90 to 120 days, but Silver Airways will begin providing commercial air service for Tupelo, Greenville and Hattiesburg/Laurel in Mississippi; Muscle Shoals, Ala.; and Greenbrier/White Sulphur Springs (also referred to as Lewisburg) W. Va.
The U.S. Department of Transportation selected the airline over Air Choice One, citing several reasons, including the communities' unanimous support for Silver.
Also, DOT said,"Atlanta is not only the communities preferred hub airport but also provides more connecting options to the national air transportation system than Air Choice One’s service to Memphis. Silver’s interline and baggage agreements with all major airlines, including an enhanced interline agreement with Delta, will enable the communities to reach their final destination with ease."
The DOT also chose Option 3 under Silver's plan, which for Tupelo means 18 round-trip flights each week to Atlanta.
For the total package to provide service to all the cities, DOT will pay Silver nearly $16.1 million in Essential Air Service subsidies for a two-year deal.
DOT did note it was "very concerned" about Silver's much-higher subsidy requirement than that offered by Air Choice One.
However, Silver was selected by the agency because:
1) the demonstrated reliability in providing scheduled air service;
2) the contractual and marketing arrangements with a larger carrier to ensure service beyond a hub airport;
3) interline agreements with a larger carrier; and
4) support by the community’s elected officials for the applicants proposal. Silver’s proposal meets, and has a comparative advantage over Air Choice One in all four of these statutory criteria.
Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said Silver's selection was good and the Tupelo-to-Atlanta connection was ideal, especially compared to Memphis, where a quarter of its flights have been eliminated.
The cost of flying between TUP and ATL will be around $200 round-trip - on top of what it would cost to fly to a passenger's ultimate destination, Abramson said.
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said he was pleased with the choice and said it was "good news for Tupelo and the region. It's a win, win, win."
Read more in Wednesday's Daily Journal