Silver Airways is ending its service to Tupelo, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline announced today in a move that wasn’t unexpected.
Said Silver in a news release:
As part of its plan to strengthen operations, increase revenue, reduce costs, and better position the airline for future growth and other opportunities, Silver Airways today announced plans to exit much of its Atlanta network and redeploy its aircraft and team members to other key markets.
Silver has provided the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) with the required 90-day notice of its intent to discontinue scheduled service between Atlanta and five communities, including Muscle Shoals, Alabama (MSL); Greenville, Mississippi (GLH); Laurel/Hattiesburg, Mississippi (PIB); Tupelo, Mississippi (TUP); and Meridian, Mississippi (MEI).
Tupelo Regional Airport executive director Josh Abramson said Silver flights will continue, however.
“The next step is that the U.S. Department of Transportation will issue a hold-in-service order, which means Silver has to continue service until a suitable replacement is found,” he said.
Abramson said Silver will continue to fly its schedule, and the airport will have a webpage dedicated to the process in which a new carrier will be selected.
Ironically, Silver was picked by the USDOT two years ago as a replacement for Delta Air Lines, when it announced in July 2011 it was ending service in Tupelo. Delta said it could no longer serve 24 small airports across the country. Other Mississippi cities at the time included Greenville and Hattiesburg. Delta received federal Essential Air Service subsidies to fly in those cities. In Greenville, it received $1.6 million a year; in Hattiesburg nearly $1.4 million; and in Tupelo, more than $920,000.
Silver received a two-year guaranteed subsidy totaling nearly $16.1 million to provide service to Tupelo (with a link to Greenville), Hattiesburg and Meridian. The Hattiesburg cost $2.97 million, while the Greenville-Tupelo subsidy cost $7.04 million. The DOT at the time also raised concerns about Silver’s higher subsidy but chose the airline anyway.
Silver began service in October 2012, taking over subsidized service from Delta. But Silver stumbled from the start, with a delayed service launch, website issues, flight delays and cancellations and an inability to code share with Delta as had been expected.
It’s Silver’s second time this year to announce it was ending service. In February, Silver provided the Department of Transportation with a federally required 90-day notice of its intent by May 15 to end service between Cleveland and DuBois, Bradford and Franklin in Pennsylvania as well as Jamestown, N.Y and Parkersburg, W.Va.
Silver blamed a pilot shortage and low passenger numbers for that move. It said in February that it would retire its 19-seat Beech aircraft and redeploy those pilots and maintenance team workers to the rest of its 28 Saab 340 turboprops that served its other markets, including Tupelo.
Abramson said DOT will announce a timeframe for bids from airlines interested in providing service – the same procedure that it followed when Delta made its announcement in 2011. Four airlines ultimately bid to provide service in Tupelo, with the finalists being Silver and Air Choice One.
Abramson said he expects some of the same airlines to bid for service again. He also is meeting with “six or seven” other airlines to gauge their interest.
The rest of Silver’s announcements says this:
Silver does intend, however, to continue operations between Atlanta and Macon, Georgia (MCN), and between Macon and Orlando, Florida (MCO), as well as between Atlanta and Greenbrier/Lewisburg, West Virginia (LWB).
“The plans announced today are a necessary and important component of our strategy to continue rationalizing our fleet and network to better position ourselves for future growth and greater success by improving our operational performance and better serving customers and business partners in our core markets.”
“While we have been privileged to be able to serve these cities from Atlanta for the past year-and-a-half, multiple factors have combined to make it economically impossible for us to continue flying in these markets,” said Silver Airways President and CEO Dave Pflieger. “New federal regulations related to flight and duty limitations, as well as increased requirements related to new hire pilot certification, have had the unintended effect of creating a nationwide shortage of regional airline pilots. Those facts, coupled with significantly lower than expected passenger enplanements in most of our Atlanta-network cities have made it uneconomical for us to continue serving these communities.”
“While we have announced our plans to exit these particular markets, we remain interested in serving any community or airport where we can operate economically,” said Pflieger. “The plans announced today are a necessary and important component of our strategy to continue building a best-in-class next generation regional airline.”
The airline also confirmed that once operations at the affected communities are discontinued, all team members in good standing who wish to remain with Silver will be offered opportunities elsewhere. “We have open positions throughout the rest of our network, and we hope these team members choose to continue their careers with our award-winning airline,” added Pflieger.
And this is what Silver said in February when it exited the other markets. Sound familiar?
We have been privileged to be able to serve these cities from Cleveland for almost six years, but multiple factors have combined to make it economically impossible for us to continue flying in these markets. As a result, we will be retiring our fleet of five remaining Beech 1900D aircraft and retraining or redeploying our pilots and maintenance team members, allowing us to conclude our fleet simplification efforts and focus exclusively on our core fleet of 28 advanced Saab 340B Plus aircraft. In doing so, we will be able to strengthen our operations in our key markets and position our airline for additional growth,” said Silver Airways President and CEO Dave Pflieger. “New federal regulations related to air transport pilot certification, as well as new flight and duty limitations and rest requirements have had the unintended effect of creating a nationwide pilot shortage and significantly increasing operating costs. Those facts, coupled with lower than expected passenger enplanements in most of these cities, the recently announced regional flight reductions at Cleveland International Airport, and our need to finalize our transition from 19-seat Beech 1900D aircraft to larger and more advanced and economical 34-seat Saab 340B Plus aircraft, all influenced our decision.”
“While we have announced our plans to exit these markets, we remain interested in serving any community or airport where our larger aircraft can operate economically,” said Pflieger. “The plans announced today are a necessary and important component of our strategy to improve our operational performance, to deliver world-class customer service, and to strengthen our network, so we and our teammates can continue to build a best-in-class next generation regional airline.”
The airline also confirmed that once operations in its Cleveland operations are discontinued, all team members in good standing who wish to remain with Silver will be offered opportunities elsewhere in its network. “We have open positions throughout our network, and we hope our team members choose to continue their careers with Silver,” added Pflieger.