Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Contour Airlines service takes flight



TUPELO – After more than a five-month hiatus, commercial air service has returned to Tupelo.

And David Hazlett is impressed by the airline providing that service – Contour Airlines, which flew the Virginia-based consultant from Nashville to Tupelo for the first time Tuesday.

“We have a client here in Tupelo, and finally we can fly right in to see them,” he said.

The last time Hazlett came to see his client, he had to fly to Memphis, get a rental car and drive to the All-America City.

“Having Contour is great; it’s far more convenient,” he said.

He also was impressed by the airline’s customer service. His American Airlines flight to Nashville from Washington was late, and he emailed Contour to see if the flight to Tupelo could wait for him. It did, earning the airline a happy customer.

“You can’t beat the price, either,” Hazlett said, noting his one-way ticket cost only $18.99.

The cost is a promotional fare that’s good through the end of the year, but tickets must be purchased by April 30.

It certainly has caught the eye of the public. After announcing two weeks ago that service would begin Tuesday, Contour has sold more than 1,000 tickets.

“That’s more than SeaPort sold in their first month,” said Contour CEO Matt Chaifetz, referring to the airline that began service in October 2014, only to pull out a year later.

Contour’s introductory low-ticket price was no doubt a driver of sales, but Chaifetz said there also is a big interest in what Contour has to offer following the failed attempts of SeaPort and its predecessor, Silver Airlines.

The nine-passenger, twin-engine Jetstream 31 planes Contour is flying are converted 19-seat aircraft. That means passengers have plenty of room to stretch. Contour is using two of the planes, both recently renovated inside and out, with one always stationed in Tupelo as a backup.

“We’ll be flying both planes, because you don’t want to just leave a plane sitting there,” said Cathy Harris, the company’s executive vice president of administration. “So we might have one plane coming in from Nashville, keep it here and use the other plane to fly to Nashville. We’ll swap them out regularly to keep them flying.”

Harris said Contour also will have two additional backup planes in Nashville – a Jetstream 32 and a King Air. That’s a luxury the other airlines did not have previously.

In Tupelo, Contour has hired 10 employees, including a mechanic, to take care of operations at Tupelo Regional Airport. The spare plane will be kept in the hangar near the fixed-based operator

Cliff Nash, the airport’s executive director, said he’s been impressed by Contour’s efforts.

“They’re well aware of our recent air service issues, but they’re doing all they can not to have similar pitfalls,” Nash said.

He said negotiations with the airline have been very “thorough … and that’s a good sign. I’m really excited for the airport and for the city.”

Poor service ended Silver’s service after two years in 2014, but it was replaced by even more unreliable service in SeaPort. That service ended in October, leaving a trail of disgruntled passengers and a wary public.

Chaifetz is confident that Contour will not fail in providing good customer service and reliable, on-time flights.

The $18.99 promotional fare ends on April 30, and regular prices will go back to $49 one-way.

“We think that’s a sustainable fare for us,” Chaifetz said.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.contourairlines.com or by calling 1-888-33-CONTOUR.

Original article can be found here:  https://djournal.com

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