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Delta flights continuing as airport seeks replacement

HATTIESBURG — Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport officials say Delta Airlines will continue service to the airport until a replacement carrier is found.

On July 15, Delta announced its intentions to discontinue service to 24 smaller, more rural markets, including Hattiesburg-Laurel.

Airport executive Thomas Heanue tells The Hattiesburg American that he’s hoping local residents will support Delta as a way of showing other carriers that the market is a good one.

Delta has provided service under the federally subsidized Essential Air Service program. The EAS provides federal dollars to more than 100 of the country’s smaller regional and rural airports that otherwise couldn’t attract commercial airline service.

Hattiesburg-Laurel was in the second-year of a two-year, $1.3 million annual subsidy it paid Delta.

“The citizens of the Pine Belt can be assured of the future of air service,” Heanue said. “We just need to keep supporting our carrier now. It’s the only way to assure that other carriers look at us favorably.”

Heanue said under U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines, Delta is required to provide service at least 90 days after its notification of intent to terminate service.

“In this case, Delta will continue to service this market, subsidized, until a suitable replacement is found and accepted by the community,” Heanue stated. “This means we could have Delta service for at least six months to a year.”

Hattiesburg-Laurel opened in 1974, and has been served by an EAS-subsidized carrier since 1979.

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