Passengers talk about airlines stopping direct service to South MS

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Just after four o'clock on Sunday afternoon, Allegiant Air's last flight out of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport took off headed to Orlando, Florida. It marked the end of carriers's run in the South Mississippi market. On Monday, Air Tran will follow suit.

The mood was a bit somber at the airport on Sunday morning. Passengers say they've come to depend on Air Tran to fly in and out of the Mississippi Coast. They're not happy about the airline's decision to cut the service.

Chountelle Bullock and her daughter were among those waiting to take a full flight from Gulfport to Atlanta. Bullock says she flies to South Mississippi on Air Tran every six weeks to visit her parents.

"I like the service, and it's cost effective. And my mom lives about 13 minutes away from here," said Bullock.

Now she says her parents will have to drive an hour and a half to New Orleans for her to take Air Tran.

Most passengers said they were disappointed that the Gulfport-Atlanta service, as well as Air Tran flights between Gulfport and Tampa, and Gulfport and Fort Lauderdale are going away. They say Air Tran has great customer service and a reasonable prices.

Denise Emertioma said, "I always get really good deals using Air Tran. I get pretty good deals. I like that they have the one way deals. Sometimes I can get one way. Sometimes two way, so it's nice to have that option. "

"I like traveling Air Tran," said Gloria Bedalis. "I think it stinks that they're discontinuing their service from Atlanta to Mississippi."

Gloria Lewis says she likes to use Air Tran to get to Coast casinos. She and others believe the decision of three casinos to stop subsidizing Air Tran flights will end up costing more money than it saves.

"I'm not real happy about it," said Lewis. "I feel like the company [Air Tran] is going to lose a lot of money plus the casinos will be losing a lot by not transporting the people back and forth from different cities to here."

Chountelle Bullock said, "I think now when people are counting their dollars, they're going to spend them more cost effectively. Air Tran would have probably brought other customers from the competitors if they had stayed here in the market. Hopefully six months, three months, they'll be back."

The last Air Tran flight out of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is scheduled to depart at 5:20pm Monday evening headed to Atlanta.

Airport officials say Delta has added two more flights to Atlanta to off set Air Tran's pull out. All direct flights between Gulfport and Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale will stop for now. However, airport officials say they hope to have some good news soon.

Marketing director Jim Pitts said, "I just want to reassure the community we are working everyday on having replacement service in place real, real soon to the Florida cities and maybe adding some service for additional cities that will replace the Air Tran service. This is not going to be something that the airport will be just standing by waiting for something to happen. We're working diligently every day."

Pitts says talks are in the works with several airlines about offering services in Gulfport.