Boutique Air

Clear skies predicted with new carrier approved to serve airport in Greenville

By Becky Gillette

It has been a rocky road for the Mid-Delta Regional Airport in the past year, as the airport lost regular jet service and started new service with SeaPort Airlines, only to lose that in September due to problems with that airline. But the Mid-Delta Regional Airport turned a major corner in early November when passenger services started with a new airline based in California, Boutique Air. And a new airport manager was hired, after difficulties earlier in the year finding the right person for the position.“With all that, we are excited about what the future holds for the airport,” says Greenville Mayor John H. Cox III. “A lot of things are happening all of the sudden.”The airport was without passenger service for about five weeks after SeaPort withdrew. Cox says SeaPort Airlines had a lot of internal problems and difficulties ramping up service in a number of different markets at one time. “I think they tried to go into this market too early and weren’ t prepared administratively, equipment-wise, or in terms of adequate personnel such as pilots,” Cox says. “They weren’ t able to have enough planes to even take off, let alone meet their flight schedules. They didn’ t last long.”With the support of the City of Greenville, Boutique Air was able to secure an Essential Air Services (EAS) contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide scheduled passenger services to Greenville through September 30, 2017.   The schedule, which can be found online at www.boutiqueair.com, will feature two daily round trip flights between Greenville and Nashville, Tenn., and one daily roundtrip flight between Greenville and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.   “We are excited to bring Boutique Air service to the community of Greenville and the surrounding areas,” says CEO Shawn Simpson. “Our focus on customer service and reliability has resulted in strong demand for our service in other markets, and we look forward to creating the same success story here.”Fares will start at an introductory rate of $69 from Greenville to Dallas, and $49 from Greenville to Nashville. The new airport director approved for hiring by the Greenville City Council is Lee Owen, a long-time resident of Greenville, who is a former city councilman and former member of the city’ s airport committee. Cox says the council felt Owen was a good choice because of his familiarity with the airport and the city. Owen has a history of management in various retail sales positions, and most recently has been employed in the advertising department of the Delta Democrat Times. “He has the management skills, communication skills and maturity for the job as airport director,” Cox says. “For the next six months to help get it all started, we are hiring a consultant who is a retired airport director, who will be coming in two days a month to help mentor, train and educate our new airport director, as well as an administrative assistant at the airport, who has been on the job for three months.”Cox says resumption of passenger air services is important not just to Greenville, but the

entire mid-Delta region regarding economic development. “Whenever outside firms are looking at areas where they might locate a factory, they try to determine if commercial air service is available at that location,” Cox says. “If you aren’ t able to check the box ‘ yes’  for commercial air service, many times you get put on a shelf at an early stage. We think it is very important not only for current employers in the area, but for the future potential of industries that would locate here. It is also important to people who live in the region.”