Delta stopping airline service to Tupelo

Published 1:17 am Sunday, December 9, 2007

Delta Air Lines is dropping air service between Tupelo and Atlanta.

Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said the airline’s Atlantic Southeast Airlines regional carrier, will fly out of Tupelo for the last time on Jan. 7 at 7:50 a.m.

“Obviously, we would prefer to continue providing service, but record fuel prices have forced us to re-evaluate all of our routes,” she said Friday.

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Delta also is ending service in McAllen and in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Elliott said the cutbacks were part of an overall 5 percent reduction in domestic operations.

Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Terry Anderson said the percentage of seats filled on a plane is watched closely by the industry. The higher the better, and Anderson said Delta’s “break-even” point for flying out of Tupelo was 70 percent.

“Even on the more popular morning flight, the best we got was 65 percent,” he said.

ASA/Delta also moved from a 40-seat jet to a 50-seat jet, which made hitting the load factor mark even harder, Anderson said.

Earlier in the week, Delta, Southwest and Continental said they would be scaling back expansion plans and trying to fill more seats on existing planes to make operating costs more manageable.

When Delta began flights in Tupelo in 2005, there were high hopes for the carrier. Delta’s flights, combined with Northwest Airlines’ air service, helped the airport post record boardings the past two years.

ASA/Delta has seven employees in Tupelo.

Northwest again becomes the only carrier flying in and out of Tupelo.

“We’re going to have to look and see what happens over the next year, and we’ll have to also look at the availability and inventory of aircraft that are available.

“I want to emphasize that Delta’s decision had nothing to do with our capabilities or our efforts here … it had more to do with the economy, fuel prices, politics and other reasons all coming together,” Anderson said.