The Tupelo Airport Authority meets Wednesday morning with representatives of Air Choice One, but SeaPort, which made a presentation in 2009, will make its presentation at a later date. It had originally scheduled a meeting Wednesday as well.
Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said on Monday Tupelo is working in concert with airport officials in Greenville, Hattiesburg and Muscle Shoals, Ala., which also face termination of Delta Air Lines service, which receives a subsidy from the federal Essential Air Service Program to serve all four of the airports under the stop-service notice.
The Mississippi airports are among 24 nationwide at which Delta, the nation's largest airline, plans to cease service. Delta and its predecessors have served Tupelo for more than 50 years.
Abramson said the authority wants to keep open communications with both SeaPort and Air Choice One, neither of which offer full connectivity with all airlines at either Memphis or other nearby major airports.
Abramson said it's hoped Tupelo's continued search will lead to air service with planes larger than the nine-passenger Cessna Caravans operated by SeaPort and Air Choice One.
One prospect might be Gulfstream Air, a Florida-based operator that has received major new financing and operates with Saab 340 aircraft, which Delta formerly used in Tupelo, and Beech 1900's, a twin-engine plane with seating for 19 passengers.
Abramson also noted that even the smallest regional jets likely to come on line in the near term will seat 70 people, with the result that airports would need 200,000 enplanements over a 10-year span to remain viable. He also said the larger regional jets require facilities maintained at a high level, including adequate runway length.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said last week that the city still has access to $3 million set aside in the state's funding for the Toyota project to assist service at Tupelo.
Both Reed and Abramson said the $3 million would remain off the table until it can be used to best strategic advantage.
We agree with Abramson that airline mergers and service reductions create an atmosphere similar to the upheaval with airline deregulation in 1978.
We believe there's reason to hope that more demand for air service in Tupelo will be generated with production at Toyota.