GREENVILLE, Miss. — The U.S. Department of Transportation says Greenville is not currently eligible for the federally funded Essential Air Service subsidy program, which puts in doubt passenger service to the Mid-Delta Airport.
Local officials told the Delta Democrat-Times reports (http://bit.ly/W1gCKr) that there is no reason to panic.
The city had hoped to get approval for SeaPort Airlines to replace Silver Airways.
The decision means the Department of Transportation, which was expected within months to choose one of three carriers bidding to replace Silver Airways, "will not immediately make a carrier selection at Greenville," spokeswoman Caitlin Harvey said in the email.
"Greenville was recently found ineligible to receive subsidized EAS because it did not generate 10 or more (passengers) per service day as required" by federal program rules, she said.
Harvey said the city has until July 24 to file an appeal.
Silver Airways in April said it would discontinue flying into and out of Greenville. The final decision on a replacement airline would be made by the Department of Transportation.
"We're aware of the situation," SeaPort Executive Vice President Tim Sieber said. "This is a service for 10 passengers per day. We believe it is safe to say that this situation is temporary, and we will have no trouble getting 10 passengers per day."
Harvey said if Greenville's appeal fails, Silver Airways' service would end 30-45 days later.
"We will hold Silver Airways in to serve Greenville until further action by the department," Harvey said.
Local officials said the number of passengers flying out of Greenville Mid-Delta has declined since Silver Airways, which in April had the worst on-time performance of all U.S. airlines, replaced Delta Airlines.
The airport has averaged just more than nine passengers a day in recent months.
"Until the last year and a half, we'd been averaging about 20 per day," City Attorney Andy Alexander said. "Since Silver has been here, it's gone down.
"We are early in the process. We don't expect this to be a long process, and we're very optimistic about getting the waiver," Alexander said.
Information from: Delta Democrat-Times, http://www.ddtonline.com