Monday, May 2, 2016

Contour Airlines off to good start in Tupelo

TUPELO – Since starting service April 5 at Tupelo Regional Airport, Contour Airlines has flown more than 600 passengers to and from Nashville.

In addition, the airline has booked more than 3,200 tickets.

Putting that in perspective, the previous carrier, SeaPort Airlines, flew 2,145 people during its troubled 11-month service here.

“I’ve only gotten one call from a passenger, and it was positive about Contour’s service,” said Cliff Nash, the airport’s executive director.

That’s in contrast to complaints about canceled and delayed flights from SeaPort, which ended its service in October.

Contour knew it had to make a good first impression, and it seems the Smyrna, Tennessee-based airline is doing just that.

Admittedly, much of Contour’s initial popularity has been driven by an introductory fare of $18.99 for a one-way ticket to the Music City. The promotion ends at 11:59 p.m. tonight, but the rate is good for flights through Sept. 7.

The price goes up to $49.99 one-way on Sunday. The airline says it plans to have other promotions in the future.

Matt Chaifetz, the CEO of Corporate Flight Management, the parent company of the airline, said he’s been “blown away” by the response.

“It has far surpassed our expectations,” he said. “Given we had a small window starting March 22, we had two weeks before we started service, and we were able to fill 65 percent of the seats in April. … it’s unbelievable.”

Also helping the airline is the fact that it has been on time with most of its flights. There have been no cancellations, and “no considerable delays,” Chaifetz said.

“We’ve only had a couple of flights delayed due to weather,” he said. “To date, we’ve had 96 percent on-time performance.”

Contour has 30 flights a week between Tupelo and Nashville under a subsidized two-year contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Chaifetz said the flights only go through Sept. 7 for now, as the trends will be analyzed to see if any adjustments need to be made with the schedule. For example, the first flight that leaves Tupelo is 6 a.m., but it could be moved back to 5:45 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. to accommodate travelers who want to take flights beyond Nashville to another destination.

Many of the travelers now using Contour are using it as an air taxi to Nashville and back, though there are some who are connecting to other airlines.

Nash said even with an increase in the fare, travelers have the advantage of booking a flight with any airline they want in Nashville and still save money compared to flying out of other area airports tied to a single carrier.

Chaifetz said Contour also is working to get tickets available for sale through the global distribution system, which allows other travel sites to sell Contour tickets. For now, customers can only purchase tickets online at www.contourairlines.com or by calling 888-33-CONTOUR.

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

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