JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Air travelers in recent years have had limited options when flying out of Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport.
Currently, only one air carrier, SkyWest, is providing service and it only flies to Dallas twice a day.
The company offers flights as part of Essential Air Service.
That’s a federally-subsidized program which guarantees minimal air service to small communities.
Airport officials say there’s no guarantee Sky-West will bid to provide service after next year.
“If the subsidy’s not right for them and the numbers don’t crunch, they don’t have to bid on it,” said Tom Heanue, executive director of the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport. “There’s nothing in America that says the government has to force you to go bid on something. So, if there’s no bids, you just don’t have air service.”
Recently, the airport lost a daily flight to Chicago because of low boardings.
That flight was also provided by SkyWest.
Heanue says many travelers that could fly out of the Pine Belt choose to fly from other airports.
“Our biggest problem is our location. It’s so easy for people in this area to go to New Orleans, go to Gulfport, go to Jackson, for some people in our area, it’s go to Mobile, even.”
Heanue is confident the airport will continue to get quality air service and is hopeful SkyWest will continue to provide that service.
“I always tell folks (the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport is) not the one you look at all the time, but look, you might be surprised.”
In past years, flights from the airport have gone to Hubs like Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans, on aircraft from Delta, Northwest, Sunbelt and Southern Airways.