TUPELO — An airline industry expert has renewed warnings to Tupelo officials that the local airport could lose federal subsidies if the number of commercial air travelers remains low.
The comments from Mike Mooney of Sixel Consulting Group came during a meeting that gave stakeholders in the Tupelo Regional Airport a chance to get a progress report on operations, finances and a new marketing campaign.
The airport has struggled since Delta airlines pulled out and was replaced by Silver Airways in October of 2012. Mooney was involved in the initial recruitment of Silver to take over commercial flight operations. Mooney was involved in the initial recruitment of Silver to take over commercial flight operations.
Josh Abramson, executive director of Tupelo Regional Airport, said the grant the airport receives from the federally funded Airport Improvement Plan fund will drop from $1 million in 2012 to $150,000 for 2013.
An airport must have 10,000 boardings a year to qualify for the $1 million grant. Tupelo is on track to come in with less than 8,000 based on 2013’s current levels.
From October 2012 to January 2013, boardings were 51 percent lower than the same time the previous year, Abramson said.
The combined effect of sequestration and low travel volume could also affect Essential Air Service subsidies. This per passenger subsidy directly impacts operational revenue.
“Basically we’re looking for the businesses of Tupelo to drive in and pledge to make Tupelo their first consideration for air travel, not their only, but their first,” said Abramson.
Mooney said Tupelo has a strong industrial base that can support the airport and airlines are looking for that.
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