Airline Bids Outline Potential Jet Service in Meridian

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Meridian, Miss. Aerodynamics, Inc. and ExpressJet are the two commercial airlines bidding to provide commercial jet service to those flying into and out of Meridian Regional Airport. The U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington e-mailed the bids to Newscenter 11 on Friday afternoon. City leaders are in the early stages of pouring over them.

"Well, you know, we really haven't analyzed the bids at this point," Airport Authority President Tom Williams says. "They are very superficial, if you will. You know, for example, I think one of the bids is three pages. Now you would think an air service bid would be very substantial, but three pages, that doesn't tell you a lot."

While there are still a lot of questions to be answered, including whether each airline can definitely transport the military, the bids paint a pretty clear picture of the flight plans. Aerodynamics would fly directly to and from Atlanta while ExpressJet would fly from Meridian to Laurel-Hattiesburg and then to Dallas-Fort Worth. Documents say Aerodynamics, Inc. would operate flights under its independent identity while ExpressJet would be connected to the American Airlines global network.

"Regardless of which is which, if one cannot carry the military, there's a deal breaker," Williams points out. "If one maybe has a gate at a terminal and one parks remotely, but one has one stop and one doesn't, you know which is the favorite. And that's why it's important to get the perspective of the community travelers."

Mayor Percy Bland tells Newscenter 11 a panel of three or four members will ultimately help decide which bid is best. A decision is expected in nine business days.

The Department of Transportation says Silver Airways must remain in Meridian until a new airline is chosen.