TUPELO – While Contour Airlines has emerged as the leading candidate to continue providing air service in the All-America City, the airport board isn’t quite ready to make a final decision.
Contour has provided 30 weekly flights between Tupelo and Nashville since April of last year, and its contract expires in March. It wants to continue service, and five other airlines have submitted bids as well.
At a special meeting Tuesday, the six bids were discussed for about an hour between four of the five board members. City councilman Mike Bryan and city of Tupelo chief operating officer Don Lewis also attended the meeting and weighed in.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has asked for the city and airport’s recommendation by Oct. 19, but airport executive director Cliff Nash said an extension can be given if asked.
That likely will be the case, as the board wants a little more time to look at the bids and ask questions. All the airlines have asked to appear before the board to make a presentation, but it’s likely that only the top three or four will be asked to do so.
Contour is the favored candidate, while Boutique – which already provides service Greenville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama – appears to be a second choice.
But, Nash said, “We haven’t seen anything that’s substantially better than what we have going now.”
Contour’s tenure has been marked by exemplary service, with 99 percent of its flights completed. There were several comments about its on-time reliability and low fares at the meeting.
Essentially, the feeling, as one board member said, was “why fix what’s not broken.”
However, out of fairness for the other airlines, the board plans to invite some of the airlines to present their case. A date has not been set for those meetings, which could possibly be open to the public.
Nash said those interested in keeping Contour as the provider or wanting a new carrier can contact him at (662) 841-6570, ext. 5, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.