July 11, 2008

Tupelo Airport Numbers Continue to Fall

By Dennis Seid, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss.

Jul. 10--TUPELO -- Consumers are paying more at the pump to fill up their cars, trucks and SUVs, forcing them to cut back in other areas.

That includes flying, and at Tupelo Regional Airport, the number of passengers taking the daily Mesaba Airlines flights to Memphis are continuing to drop.

In June, the number of enplanements -- airline terminology for boardings -- fell nearly 7 percent to 1,410. The number of Mesaba boardings last June was 1,512. The drop would be worse if the 936 enplanements from ASA/Delta were counted. ASA dropped its routes from Tupelo to Atlanta in January.

TRA Executive Director Terry Anderson said the numbers aren't too surprising, give the economy.

"You've got people who aren't driving as far anymore for vacations or other long distances, and they're also not flying," he said.

Overall traffic last month at Tupelo Regional, boosted by activity generated by the Army National Guard unit in Tupelo, was up 22 percent. Guard operations grew 84 percent.

"They're doing a lot of flying with the new Lakota helicopters, but that bump will be short term," Anderson said.

Indeed the military activity helped keep fuel sales from dropping too much. Last year, TRA sold 76,551 gallons. That figured dropped about 1.6 percent to 75,326 last month.

However, corporate jet A fuel fell 23 percent, general aviation gas fell 22 percent and self-service fuel dropped 33 percent. Military sales rose 215 percent.

Despite all the negative numbers, the airport's revenue is still meeting projections -- so far. With three months left in the fiscal year, Anderson said the airport authority will keep a close eye on all of its operations.

Anderson told the board that work force reductions, stricter scheduling, more revenue producing activities and future resources for potential budget savings must all be considered.

"We can't go through too many more years at this rate," he said. "We can hold on for a couple of years, but we have to hope that oil prices drop to more manageable levels."


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Copyright (c) 2008, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss.

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