While Silver Airways has announced it is ending commercial air service in Tupelo (click here for previous coverage), officials with the Tupelo Regional Airport think a replacement carrier could be in place as early as August.
By law, Silver must continue service until a replacement is found. The U.S. Department of Transportation will issue a RFQ (request for proposal) for airlines interested in providing the service. Of course, they’ll get a federal subsidy, via the Essential Air Service program, to provide that service.
That RFQ could be out in the next couple of weeks, then as the proposals are entered, the public can weigh in on the options.
According to Tupelo Regional Airport executive director Josh Abramson, if everything falls in place, the winning carrier – assuming there is one – could be selected as early as June, with the new carrier perhaps operational by August.
However, that depends on the airline that is selected, the number of planes in its fleet and the number if pilots it has.
Abramson also said that getting a 50-seat regional jet, like the ones Delta Air Lines was using during the last few months it was here, and which it uses in Columbus, is not a likely option for Tupelo.
The problem, he said, is there’s not enough demand in Tupelo to fill a 50-seater, and even linking with Greenville or Muscle Shoals, as Delta and Silver have done, still won’t provide the numbers an airline would need to maintain profitability.
So who will bid for Tupelo’s service? It’s not known, but since Silver announced in February it was leaving the Cleveland market, the RFPs are due and the bidders there will be revealed soon. Abramson said taking a cue from the list of bidders there will provide some good possibilities.
Meanwhile, Silver’s flights will continue in and out of Tupelo until a replacement is found, Abramson reiterated. Also, updates to service, as available, will be put on the airport’s website.