The holidays are generally busy travel periods, however, ridership is down at Meridian Regional Airport. Overall, MRA President, Tom Williams says ridership is down by about half. He says this is due to a circumstance that was virtually unknown prior to the airport's new carrier taking over operation. Efforts are now being made to resolve the problem.
"Our numbers since October 1st are terrible, but it's because half of our passengers are military and they can't use Silver," says Williams.
One week prior to kicking off service in Meridian, Williams says officials with Silver Airways realized that they did not have clearance to transport military personnel. Immediately, he says company officials took action to rectify the situation. However, because that process can be lengthy, he says it's possible that the clearance will not be granted until late March.
Another major problem has been ticket sales. At $100 one way, tickets for the one hour flight from Meridian to Atlanta are far cheaper than the $450 to $1,000 tickets for the same flight on Delta Airlines. However, passengers such as Carol White of New York have had problems retrieving some discounts.
"I use Delta to Atlanta. When I get to Atlanta. I'm with a whole new airlines that doesn't recognize it, not as of yet they say. So, I have to pay the difference," says White.
That was the case when Carol White bought her ticket. Just prior to Christmas, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi was instrumental in helping to fix some of the on-line ticket sale problems with Silver Airways.
"I think overall we're probably doing a little better financially," says Williams. "However, Silver is having a hard time catching on and I think a lot of it had to do initially with the complexity of buying the tickets, I think all of that is solved now; not being on delta.com was also a problem, which I know is solved now; another problem is people strangely holding them to a higher standard than they did Delta."
Optimistic that clearance to transport military personnel will be granted, Williams says once that happens and when locals become more familiar with Silver Airways schedule, things will get much better for the airline and the airport as a whole.
Silver Airways is based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It operates more than 100 flights daily in the U.S. When Delta Airlines decided to cease operation in Meridian, Silver Airways was the only airline to bid on locating in the Queen City. On October 1st, Silver Airways also took over air service at the airports in Tupelo and Greenville and the Laurel/Hattiesburg Airport.