Silver Airways to offer $48 tickets

silverairways_logoBy Dennis Seid

Daily Journal

TUPELO – In an attempt to reach out to a skeptical flying public, Silver Airways will offer one-way tickets between Tupelo and Atlanta for $48 plus tax.

The lower price should begin within the next two weeks. One-way tickets currently cost between $55 and $166, depending on the day of departure, according to the Silver website.

The fare reduction comes on the heels of Silver’s decision to reduce the number of weekly flights in Tupelo from 36 to 24, starting March 3.

Tupelo officials had asked the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline to reduce the number of flights in hopes the move would improve Silver’s performance, which has been fraught with cancellations and delays during its 16 months of service locally.

Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said the change will help Silver’s pilot shortage and also help save the company some operating expenses.

Silver is being paid a $7 million annual subsidy through the federal Essential Air Service program to provide air service for Tupelo, Greenville, Hattiesburg/Laurel and Meridian.

But the public has yet to latch on to the service, even though Silver flies Saab 340 aircraft, which seat up to 34 people. The problem has been the airline’s reliability.

Passenger boardings have plummeted since Silver began service in October 2012. Some of that is due to the reduction in the number of flights. Still, boardings fell to 5,331 last year, a 31 percent drop from a year earlier and the lowest total in some three decades.

In January, there were only 340 boardings, a 7 percent drop compared to a year earlier.

Silver also announced Friday it was ending service between Cleveland, Ohio, and five smaller cities – Jamestown, N.Y.; Bradford, Pa.; DuBois, Pa.; Franklin, Pa.; and Parkersburg, W.Va., on May 15.

Dave Pflieger, the president and CEO of Silver Airways, said in a news release that “multiple factors have combined to make it economically impossible for us to continue flying” between Cleveland and the five markets.

Silver Airways will retire its fleet of five remaining Beech 1900D aircraft and will “retrain or redeploy the Cleveland-based pilots and maintenance workers for our core fleet of 28 advanced Saab 340B Plus aircraft used in other markets.”

As for Silver’s problems in Tupelo, Abramson said one of the biggest issues is Delta Air Lines not code-sharing with Silver. Delta previously provided service here, but its SkyMiles frequent flyer program cannot be used without a code-share agreement with Silver.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com