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Grant rejection grounds prospects for Jackson-Orlando service

airplane money_rgbFederal transportation officials have dashed for the time being hopes for a restart of direct air service from Jackson Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport to Orlando, Florida.

The U.S. Department of Transportation left Jackson off a recent list of winners of Small Community Air Service Development Program grants, according to Jackson Municipal Airport Authority spokesman Gene Moore. Jackson Evers International had sought $200,000 to help establish direct service through Allegiant Airlines from Jackson to Orlando/Sanford International, a small commercial airport about 20 miles from Orlando.

Jackson lost the non-stop service when Southwest Airlines ceased operations at the airport in early June.

» READ MORE: Jackson’s airport raising fees, cutting budget to offset loss of Southwest revenue

Even with the DOT grant, the airport would have faced a challenge getting a deal with Allegiant, an ultra-low cost carrier based in Las Vegas.

Allegiant had insisted it wanted significant incentives and concessions from the airport as a way to maintain its inexpensive ticket pricing. In exchange, the airline would provide twice weekly direct service to and from Orlando/Sanford International.

Allegiant keeps it fare ultra-low across the 96 airports it serves and would not set higher fares as a way to remain in Jackson after the grant expires, Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said in a July interview.

“Our business is focused on very low costs and very low fares,” she said. “We need the airport as a partner in helping to keep our costs down.”

The loss of Southwest Airlines and its annual $800,000 in revenues to Jackson-Evers led the airport to raise fees to carriers twice in the first few months of this year. A third increase went into effect on Oct. 1.

Airport Authority staff had been confident it getting the DOT grant, after having previously received the grant to establish service to New York City.



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