Challenges Ahead for Meridian Airport Authority

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Meridian, Miss. The main struggle for the Meridian Airport Authority in the past has been not having an airline that can fly the military. The main struggle now is finding an airline that can provide flights that will connect to both national and international flights.

Silver Airways has been flying in and out of Meridian for 18 months now. But for most, if not all of that time, passengers have been voicing their concerns about flights either being delayed significantly or canceled all together.

"From day one, wanted to work with Silver, wanted to help them grow the business and serve Meridian adequately," Airport Authority President Tom Williams says. "And for one reason after another, from the day they began service, it really was just, it just wouldn't work for them."

In a press release, Silver Airways President and CEO Dave Pflieger says, "While we have been privileged to be able to serve these cities from Atlanta for the past year-and-a-half, multiple factors have combined to make it economically impossible for us to continue flying in these markets."

Williams says had Silver been able actually carry the military, it no doubt would have been far more successful in the Queen City.

"We found out when it was too late that Silver could not carry the military," Williams explains. "We immediately had a 55 percent drop in traffic. So, a large percentage of our traffic is military. And that is an essential new part of any new airline coming to Meridian is someone who can carry the military and civilian traffic and connect with a carrier that can go worldwide."

But Williams says luring a major airline to a smaller city like Meridian is easier said than done. After all, he says there are just three major airlines now, American, Delta, and United. Of course, Delta served Meridian until 18 months ago.

"So, we have already met with one major airline and given them the information and the data," Williams points out. "I have meetings scheduled in short order with a couple of others. All to try to entice a good, name brand airline to bid in this next cycle and serve Meridian."

Right now, Silver Airways says it plans to leave Meridian in 90 days. However, Williams says the Department of Transportation can force the airline to stay until a replacement is found.