As expected, the U.S. Department of Transportation has selected SeaPort Airlines to provide air service for Tupelo.
SeaPort begins its two-year contract once it determines when to launch its service in Tupelo. Officials hope it can begin in October, but details still are being worked out between between SeaPort , outgoing provider Silver Airways, Tupelo Regional Airport and the Transportation Department.
Meanwhile, Greenville and Muscle Shoals, will be losing Silver service on Oct. 1, and will have to wait on DOT’s decision in choosing an airline for their cities.
Highlights of the decision:
By this Order, the Department is 1) selecting SeaPort Airlines, Inc. (SeaPort), to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Tupelo, Mississippi, using 9-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan (Cessna) aircraft with 18 nonstop round trips per week to Nashville International Airport (BNA) and 12 nonstop round trips per week to Memphis International Airport (MEM). The annual subsidy is $2,506,436, for a two-year term from October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2016;1 and 2) deferring action at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Greenville, Mississippi, until further Order from the Department.
….. We expect Silver and SeaPort to work together to make a smooth transition at both communities. In that regard, before Silver suspends its service, we expect it to notify all passengers holding reservations for travel after the suspension date, to assist those passengers in making alternate air transportation arrangements, or to provide a refund of the ticket price, without penalty, if requested.
By Order 2012-5-17 (May 22, 2012) the Department selected Silver Airways (Silver) at Tupelo to provide 18 nonstop round trips per week to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) using 34-passenger Saab 340 aircraft for an annual subsidy of $3,522,398.2 On April 9, 2014, Silver filed a 90-day notice of its intention to terminate scheduled air service at Tupelo. As a result of this notification, the Department issued Order 2014-4-24 prohibiting Silver from terminating service and requesting proposals from air carriers interested in providing EAS at the community for a new term.3 In response to that Order, four air carriers submitted proposals: Aerodynamics, Inc. (ADI), Multi-Aero, Inc. d/b/a Air Choice One (Air Choice One), SeaPort, and Sun Air Express, LLC d/b/a Sun Air International (Sun Air).
Each air carrier’s proposal and the community’s comments may be accessed online at www.regulations.gov by entering each community’s respective Docket number in the search block.
Special discussion about Muscle Shoals and Greenville
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 amended 49 U.S.C. § 41731(a)(1)(B) to change the definition of “eligible place” for the purpose of receiving EAS. The amendment states that to be eligible, a community must maintain an average of 10 enplanements or more per service day, as determined by the Secretary, during the most recent fiscal year beginning after September 30, 2012. The legislation exempts locations in Alaska and Hawaii and communities that are more than 175 driving miles from the nearest large or medium hub airport.4 The Secretary also has the authority to waive the 10- enplanement standard, on an annual basis, if the community can demonstrate that the reason the location averages fewer than 10 enplanements per day is due to a temporary decline in enplanements.5
Order 2014-4-26, issued on April 24, 2014, found that Greenville was within 175 miles of Memphis, a medium hub, and Muscle Shoals was within 175 miles of Nashville, both averaged fewer than 10 enplanements per day in fiscal year 2013 and, thus, both communities’ EAS eligibility was tentatively terminated by that Order. That tentative decision was made final by Order 2014-6-6, issued June 24, 2014, which also described the waiver process and announced our intention not to terminate EAS subsidy during the processing of any waiver petitions. Both Muscle Shoals and Greenville filed their waiver petitions on July 23, 2014, and their long-term status in the EAS program will not be known until the waiver process has concluded. Therefore, we will defer action on Muscle Shoals and Greenville. Any proposal that packages Muscle Shoals or Greenville will not be considered.