MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (WHNT) – A bold move was made this week by the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority.
The board of directors asked Seaport Airlines to voluntarily stop servicing the airport, and Shoals leaders cite several reasons for the request.
An empty tarmac has become a familiar sight behind the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals. Just as empty are the seats inside, where passengers wait for their flight.
“We know there is a potential of 50,000 boarding’s out of this market, but you have to have those basic things. The plane has to fly,” stated Shoals Chamber Of Commerce President Steve Holt.
Since Seaport Airlines took over in January, Holt said daily bookings have continued to slide.
The airline started the calendar with eight flights a day out of the airport, now they may have two. In July, only 37 people boarded flights.
“With not having the performance and the consistency of flights, you’re not going to get passengers when that happens,” Holt explained. “So we are where we are.”
But Shoals leaders said the continuous flight cancellations are not entirely Seaports fault.
“We were all excited about what they were going to do and then they ran into a wall that, along with all the other regional carriers, in that the pilot shortage hit them,” Holt said.
If Seaport Airlines accepts the request, it could be a lengthy period of time before another carrier could pick up service.
Airport officials have asked Seaport to maintain a reasonable service until a suitable carrier is located.
The Northwest Alabama Regional Airport must now have the U.S. Department of Transportation request proposals from other carriers under the Essential Air Service Act.