City, airport leaders might have winning bid from airline

TUPELO — After rejecting two earlier rounds of bidding by smaller airlines hoping to provide commercial service in Tupelo, city and airport officials might have an offer they like.

Air Choice One and Silver Airways turned in their bids, and Tupelo Regional Airport executive director Josh Abramson said he likes what he sees in Silver.

Both airlines are hoping to land a two-year contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program, which now pays Delta Air Lines $1.6 million to provide service.

Silver Airways, formerly known as Gulfstream International, would offer a 34-passenger SAAB to Atlanta.

Abramson said he favors Silver Airways over any of the bids they’ve received thus far because flying into an airport like Atlanta provides a huge convenience for local fliers.

“In six months you’ll be able to buy your ticket through Delta.com. You get on the airplane, and you go to Atlanta.

“You won’t notice a change. That’s what we want. You’re going to an airport with more options. If you really want to look into it, your biggest change is going to be you’re going to Atlanta and you’re going to spend less money,” he said.

Air Choice One is offering either eight-passenger plans to Memphis. In another option by Air Choice, it would use an 18-seat Jetstream in its second year of service.

“It’s a catch between Memphis and Atlanta. When we initially started this endeavor into the Essential Air Service program about two and half years ago, it was a different Memphis airport than it is today.

“Since then, Delta has continued to do cuts out of there. Twenty-five percent of the operations from Delta are cut out of there. The options aren’t there that there used to be when we originally made the decision to go into Memphis,” Abramson said.

Last July, Delta said it could no longer serve 24 small airports across the country. Included on the list were Tupelo, Greenville and Hattiesburg. Delta gets EAS subsidies to fly in those cities.

The USDOT ordered Delta to continue serving those cities until a substitute carrier could be found.

The USDOT will accept public comments through May 1, and Abramson said he would begin working with city and airport officials on responses to both offers.

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