By DENNIS SEID / Daily Journal

TUPELO • Passenger boardings at Tupelo Regional Airport hit a record with Contour Airlines, with 1,624 in December.

For the year, enplanements – the industry term used for passengers who have paid for their ticket – reached 15,753, a 22 percent increase from 2018. That figure doesn’t include charter flights, which would push the total higher. The enplanements figure also marked the third consecutive year that Tupelo Regional reached at least 10,000 passengers.

That benchmark is important.

At 10,000 enplanements, the airport receives $1 million in federal money that can be used for airport improvements. Below 10,000, the airport receives only $150,000.

The AIP (Airport Improvement Program) money provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration can be used only for capital improvements such as pavement repairs or reconstruction, vehicles and other equipment. It cannot be used for administrative or any other costs.

Tupelo has met the 10,000-enplanement the past three years, but missed out on it the previous three years when Silver Airways and SeaPort Airlines failed to meet the requirements.

Contour Airlines began providing roundtrip service between Tupelo and Nashville in April 2016 after a five-month span when there was no service after SeaPort abruptly left. Since then, Contour has seen ridership increase, and in April of last year switched from a 19-passenger plane to a 30-passenger jet.