The new year could mean new growth for air service in Meridian.
"With Delta it wasn't going to happen, with Silver it's a chance," says Meridian Regional Airport President, Tom Williams. He's talking about plans to possibly add a third flight. Williams says talks about the additional flight started with Silver Airways prior to the airline taking over service at the airport on October 1st of last year.
"They're very open," says Williams. "Things are pretty vague right now. We all know that this is not an immediate thing. This is long term. This is a year down the road or more, but starting to talk now is what we have to do."
While Silver Airways awaits approval from the Department of Defense to transport military personnel, Williams says competitive ticket prices are attracting passengers from other areas. Marsha Barrett from Hattiesburg is one of those.
"I'm taking my grandson home to his mother in Georgia. I checked some flights in Jackson and they were real expensive and I had a friend get on line and he found these in Meridian for an outstanding price," says Barrett.
Because approval is yet to be granted for Silver Airways to transport military personnel, the number of passengers for the airport is down by about half. Silver Airways has a two year contract with the Department of Transportation to operate at Meridian Regional Airport. Optimistic that approval to transport military personnel will be granted by late March, Williams says he's confident that the airline is committed to Meridian.
"They've bought airplanes to serve Meridian, Tupelo, Laurel/Hattiesburg and Greenville. You don't go buy a multi-million dollar airline unless you're committed to the business. So, I'm convinced that they've bought in and they want Meridian to work well and they want those other communities to work well," says Williams.
Service at Meridian Regional Airport has been subsidized through a federal essential air service program since 2008. The Department of Transportation handles bids for air service at subsidized airports. Meridian's airport does not receive any city nor county funding. Fuel and ticket taxes are used to maintain it.