2 northeast Mississippi airports see more passengers in 2018
COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Two northeast Mississippi airports saw notable increases in the number of passengers they served in 2018.
Golden Triangle Regional Airport set a record for passenger traffic, with 48,717 passengers boarding planes last yearl, The Commercial Dispatch reported. That’s up 9 percent from 2017. At Tupelo Regional Airport, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports the number of passengers boarding planes rose to 12,948, the most since 2009.
Golden Triangle Regional Airport Director Mike Hainsey said the three daily flights connecting to Delta Air Lines in Atlanta were fuller in 2018, running at 92 percent occupancy. He attributed that in part to continued business growth in the region. The airport also benefited from an increase in charter flights. Hainey said that’s in part because athletic teams traveling to Mississippi State University are flying on larger planes that aren’t allowed to use Starkville’s airport.
At Tupelo, Contour Airlines saw passengers increase by 39 percent for its flights to Nashville, Tennessee. The airport saw its largest number of passengers since a regional carrier for the former Northwest Airlines operated planes there. From May to December of 2018, after Contour added more seats to its Jetstream twin-engine planes (nine seats to 19), the airline recorded at least 1,000 enplanements each month.
Contour has seen its numbers increase every year since it began service in 2016 after a previous carrier pulled out of Tupelo unexpectedly.
Getting over 10,000 passengers means Tupelo Regional Airport will be eligible for $1 million in federal Airport Improvement Program funding, which is used for infrastructure work. When enplanements are less than 10,000, guaranteed funding is cut to only $150,000, although airports can apply for discretionary funding.
The high figure of enplanements last year also reduced the per-passenger subsidy to less than $140. Tupelo Regional, which has been part of the federally subsidized Essential Air Service program for several years, saw its cap hit about $330 in 2015. EAS now requires subsidies below $200 per passenger in order for cities/airports to remain in the program.