U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today expressed their support for a federal order that will assure ongoing passenger air service at three Mississippi regional airports through the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced the selection of Silver Airways, formerly Gulfstream International Airways, to provide EAS service at the Laurel/Hattiesburg, Tupelo and Greenville airports.
Cochran and Wicker had conferred with local airport and elected officials, as well as federal representatives, to reach a consensus on choosing a new carrier for passenger air service following the Delta Air Lines decision to terminate its service to these Mississippi airports.
"The selection of an Essential Air Service carrier is critical for maintaining viable passenger service at regional airports in Mississippi. For each airport, this service is an important asset for supporting manufacturing, tourism and other economic development activities in our state," Cochran said. "I appreciate the hard work put into this process by local leaders, airport directors and the Department of Transportation."
"I would like to thank local officials in Tupelo, Greenville, Laurel, and Hattiesburg, for their hard work throughout this process," said Wicker. "Cooperation was critical to this decision. The Department of Transportation's selection of Silver Airlines will help ensure that Mississippians can benefit from the economic opportunities that are created by reliable air service."
The Laurel/Hattiesburg Airport order includes 12 nonstop, round-trips to Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, while the Greenville and Tupelo airports will receive 18 round trips a week through a Greenville-Tupelo-Atlanta routing system. Silver Airways will provide 34-passenger Saab 340 aircraft for the service. The Silver Airways service will link passengers to the Delta Air Lines route system, providing them with seamless service from check-in through to their final destination.
The Department of Transportation indicated in its EAS notice that Silver Airways was selected because it best met carrier-selection criteria, including air service reliability and support from local elected officials. The order stated, "The communities support Silver's proposal and Silver is a well-established airline in the EAS program."
Cochran and Wicker supported reauthorization of the EAS program within the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. That three-year reauthorization measure was enacted into law (PL.112-95) in February.
The Department of Transportation EAS order indicates that federal support for this passenger air service program is subject to annual federal appropriations from Congress.