Six airlines, including current provider Contour Airlines, have submitted bids to keep air service going in Tupelo.
Corporate Flight Management, the parent company of Contour, has provided service between Tupelo and Nashville since April of last year. The company is being paid a subsidy of about $4.2 million a year for a two-year contract.
Service is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program, which is funded by a combination of international air carriers’ fees and an appropriation from Congress.
The new contract would begin March 1, 2018, but the DOT requested bids be submitted by Tuesday.
Here’s a glance at the bids:
AIR CHOICE ONE – It is the company’s fourth try at providing service in Tupelo, having submitted bids in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Air Choice One is offering three options for Tupelo with Beechcraft 1900 planes, a 19-seat, twin-engine turboprop:
- Tupelo to Dallas/Fort Worth 12 times a week, as well as Tupelo to Atlanta 18 times a week for $4.71 million a year for two years and $4.663 million for the third and fourth years of the contract
- Tupelo to Nashville 12 times a week and Tupelo to Atlanta 18 times a week for $3.25 million for the first two years, reduced to $3.22 million for the following two years
- Tupelo to Nashville 30 times a week for nearly $3.25 million for years 1-2 and $3.22 million for the third and fourth years of a contract
BOUTIQUE AIR – The San Francisco-based airline is making its second bid for Tupelo, having tried unsuccessfully two years ago.
This time, it’s offering proposals using either eight- or nine-seat Pilatus PC-12 or Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft.
For the twin-engine Beechcraft, Boutique is offering 30 weekly flights in four options:
- Five flights daily between Tupelo and Nashville for $3.92 million
- Four flights per day to Nashville as well as once per day to Atlanta for a little over $4 million
- Four flights per day to Nashville and once a day to Dallas/Fort Worth for $4.23 million
- Three flights a day to Nashville and twice a day to Atlanta for nearly $4.17 million
For the Pilatus, Boutique also is offering 30 weekly flights in several forms:
- Five times a day to Nashville for $3.7 million
- Five times a day to Atlanta for $3.7 million
- Four times a day to Nashville and once a day to Atlanta for $3.71 million
- Four times a day to Nashville and once a day to Dallas/Fort Worth for $3.76 million
- Four times a day to Atlanta and once a day to Dallas/Fort Worth for $3.76 million
- Four times a day to Atlanta and once to Nashville for $3.7 million.
CONTOUR – Since its start of service in Tupelo, Contour operated 3,914 out of 3,952 scheduled segments, or 99 percent of its flights. Passenger boardings at Tupelo are at the highest level in at least three years.
The company has three “service pattern” options for its next bid:
- Pattern A – 30 weekly flights to Nashville
- Pattern B – 24 weekly to Nashville as well as six weekly flights to Atlanta
- Pattern C – 18 weekly flights to Nashville and 12 weekly to Atlanta
And no matter which pattern is chosen, Contour is asking the same EAS subsidy: $3.932 million, some $300,000 cheaper per year than its current contract.
SKY VALUE AIRWAYS – Is proposing to use 50-seat Embraer regional jets. The company says the bids are contingent on it being selected to provide service for both Muscle Shoals and Tupelo.
The two options are:
- 12 weekly flights from Tupelo to Atlanta for $3.85 million, provided that it is also chosen to provide similar service to Muscle Shoals
- 12 weekly flights from Tupelo to Atlanta only for $4.57 million
SOUTHERN AIRWAYS EXPRESS – It’s the Mississippi-based company’s second try, having submitted two years ago. The airline has operated both charters and scheduled service within a 13-state footprint since 2013.
Southern is offering two options on its 9-passenger Cessna Caravan planes:
- 28 weekly flights to Nashville, five to Memphis, five to Jackson and 88 annual seasonal trips to Destin for $2.93 million
- 18 weekly flights to Nashville and six weekly flights to Memphis for $2.1 million
VIA AIR – The Florida-based airline is proposing to use Embraer ERJ-145 jets that seat 50. The company was founded in 1997 and specializes in group travel for corporate shuttles, sports teams, project shuttles and casino trips.
Its two options are:
- 12 weekly flights from Tupelo to Charlotte for $4.25 million
- 12 weekly flights between Tupelo and a combination of Charlotte and Dallas/Fort Worth for nearly $4.5 million
The Tupelo Airport Authority plans to have public discussion before submitting its recommendation to the Department of Transportation.