Thursday, April 10, 2014

Airline departs Muscle Shoals, Alabama: Silver Airways gives 90-day notice

MUSCLE SHOALS — Silver Airways announced it will discontinue commercial air service from Northwest Alabama Regional Airport to Atlanta in 90 days.

The airline stated in a news release that leaving Muscle Shoals and four Mississippi communities is part of the company’s plans to increase revenue, reduce costs and better position the airline for future growth and opportunities.

Silver has been providing twice daily fights to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport since October 2012, but has been plagued with flight delays and cancellations.

Airline officials claim several factors, including new federal regulations related to flight and duty limitations, and increased requirements related to new pilot certification, combined to make it economically impossible for the company to operate.

“These factors, coupled with significantly lower than expected passenger enplanements in most of our Atlanta network cities, have made it uneconomical to continue serving those communities,” Silver Airways President and CEO Dave Pflieger said in the release.

Rick Elliott, chairman of the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport board of directors, said the airline’s leaving has been a possibility.

“I’m not sure if it’s not a blessing in disguise,” Elliott said. “They’ve really been a huge disappointment. We’ve been dealing for two years with an attitude of indifference from Silver Airways.”

Elliott said the reason enplanements were so low was because of the airline’s poor performance.

“The problem was their on-time rate was 50 percent, and cancellations were nine to 11 percent,” he said. “How do you market something that bad? I think, to be perfectly honest with you, we did everything we possibly could on our end to make it work.”

Elliott cites a lack of competitive fares, poor performance and the lack of an early morning flight as reasons the public didn’t support the service.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline will also discontinue flights from Atlanta to Greenville, Hattiesburg-Laurel, Tupelo and Meridian in Mississippi.

According to the news release, Silver Airways provided the U.S. Department of Transportation with the required 90-day notice of its intent to discontinue scheduled air service.

The company was awarded an Essential Air Service Contract to provide air service to the Shoals and the four Mississippi communities. That contract is set to expire Sept. 30.

The Department of Transportation is expected to send out requests for proposals this month to airlines interested in providing air service to these markets.