TUPELO — SeaPort Airlines has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to discontinue service in Tupelo no later than Nov. 13.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1OcvPzm) the airline, which has been criticized by the Tupelo Airport Authority for its poor performance, also seeks to end service in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
In Tupelo, SeaPort is being subsidized $2.5 million a year through the Essential Air Service program.
SeaPort last October began a two-year contract in Tupelo, flying 18 round-trip flights to Nashville and 12 round-trip flights to Memphis weekly.
But late and canceled flights have plagued its operations in Tupelo, and the airline recently reduced the number of weekly flights to seven roundtrip flights each to Nashville and Memphis.
Boardings in Tupelo last month totaled fewer than 60.
SeaPort says the pilot shortage has been the main reason it has had to “cancel large numbers of flights at both Tupelo and Muscle Shoals and prevents us providing levels of reliability we have historically achieved and which these communities deserve.”
The airline added, “we do not see these conditions abating anytime soon.”
Both airport boards sent letters to Tim Sieber, SeaPort’s executive vice president of strategy and corporate development, asking the airline to file notices to leave their respective markets.
DOT will ask for proposals for replacement service at both cities, and SeaPort said it will work with the agency, the communities and the replacement carriers to “facilitate an orderly transition.”
SeaPort may be asked by DOT to continue service beyond Nov. 13 if a replacement carrier is not found or has not had time to set up its operations.
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