TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) — They’ve been flying since Monday but Silver Airlines and the Tupelo community made it official today.
Local business and government leaders joined the new airline serving Tupelo for a ribbon cutting this afternoon.
The airline’s sleek 34-passenger Saab 340 planes offer connections to Atlanta for about $200. They started flying to and from Tupelo Monday. Previously the airport only offered connections to Memphis via Delta.
Silver replaces Delta which dropped its Tupelo service. Federal subsidies are helping maintain Tupelo’s connection to major airports.
Tupelo Airport Manager Josh Abramson says Silver’s smaller planes will help make it more competitive in terms of price and service for customers. And the Atlanta connection is more popular with flyers, Abramson says.
But, said Mickey Bowman, Silver’s vice president of essential air service, that problem will be solved soon.
“Hopefully it’ll be done by the first of November,” he said.
Bowman, along with airport and city officials, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at the Silver counter at Tupelo Regional Airport.
Silver took over air service on Monday from Delta, in a planned move negotiated with the federal Essential Air Service program and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Like Delta, Silver is being paid a subsidy to provide the service.
Officials had hoped for a seamless transition, with passengers able to go to Delta’s or Silver’s websites to book flights.
Compatibility issues with the airlines’ booking systems are one factor, Bowman said. Another issue is that Delta is a large airline with many of its own problems to solve, and Silver isn’t high on the priority list.
“Many of the problems with Delta fall with Delta,” Bowman said. “When you think about it, we’re the flea on their back.”
Bowman also said the weather couldn’t have been much worse on Monday to begin service, noting Silver started service in four other cities in addition to Tupelo.
Despite early hiccups in service, Bowman said he’s been pleased with the results so far.
“Once we got past Monday, things have come together and actually are better than expected,” he said.
He noted Delta and Silver have an interline agreement, which allows each airline to accept the other’s ticket and covers baggage transfers and liability.
For Silver passengers, that means if they’re booking through Delta and flying from Tupelo to Atlanta, there’s one check-in and one security check.
While Delta and Silver work out the kinks in their systems, Bowman said travel website Expedia is “doing a real good job” of showing the flights passengers are looking for.
“If you want to go to Atlanta from Tupelo, you can use our website,” he said. “If you want to go beyond Atlanta, Expedia is doing the best job right now.”
Other travel websites also should be linking soon with Silver.
Bowman said Silver would work with the airport to promote its air service in the coming weeks, with a “giant push” to get the word out.
Silver provides three daily round-trip flights Monday through Friday, with one on Saturdays and two on Sundays. One-way ticket prices to Atlanta are about $100, with round-trip tickets about $200.
Silver flies Saab 340B turboprop planes, which seat up to 34 passengers.