- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - Leaders of airports in Meridian and Hattiesburg-Laurel are working with a consultant who specializes in smaller airport service to make presentations to the larger commercial airlines.

Meridian is a decent market for one of the big airlines. Hattiesburg-Laurel is a decent market with regional connections,” Meridian Airport Authority President Tom Williams told The Meridian Star (http://bit.ly/1t15MzS).

“Together we are a strong case for service by one of the larger carriers to serve our two airports,” Williams said. “It is going to be tough to be successful, but we have determined the most likely way to succeed is by us working together.”

Both airports are trying to replace service provided by Silver Airways.


Silver Airways last week provided the U.S. Department of Transportation with a required 90-day notice of intent to discontinue service between Atlanta and Meridian and four other communities, including Muscle Shoals in Alabama and Greenville, Hattiesburg-Laurel and Tupelo in Mississippi.

The government will issue request for proposals from airlines interested in serving the markets. There will be separate requests for proposals issued for each of the impacted airports, which means the same carrier may not serve all the markets.

Silver Airways will provide service in the interim.

Silver Airways replaced Delta Air Lines as the Meridian Regional Airport carrier in 2012 after Delta pulled out of the Meridian, Laurel-Hattiesburg and Tupelo markets.

Silver could not meet strict federal requirements that allowed members of the military to board its flights and the Meridian Regional Airport lost half of its passengers that first year when members of NAS Meridian and the 186th Air Refueling Wing began driving to Jackson for air service, Williams said.

Williams said local officials are not interested in any airline that doesn’t meet federal guidelines required to allow members of the military to fly on the planes, which would eliminate all but commercial carriers.

“Prior to Silver we doing about 16,000 passengers per year,” Williams said. “As soon as Silver showed up our passengers went down by just over half and that was because of the loss of the military.”

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Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com