MUSCLE SHOALS — Silver Airways’ first day in providing service to the Shoals didn’t exactly take off as planned.
Rain storms and low visibility delayed morning flights from Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Barry Auchly, chairman of the Air Services Committee, said Monday’s delays were caused by a backup in Atlanta, which experienced heavy storms during the morning hours.
“If Atlanta gets behind, that really gets everything else behind,” Auchly said Monday afternoon. “Last we heard, Atlanta’s schedules were beginning to catch up, but they were still experiencing some delays there.”
A planned ceremonial inaugural flight that would have taken local government and business leaders to Atlanta on Monday morning and back to Muscle Shoals that evening was canceled, but other flights did get off the ground, just a little later than first scheduled.
Steve Frank, of Muscle Shoals, arrived at the airport to catch an early morning flight to Atlanta en route to Phoenix for work. He had to wait.
His said his only worry was making his connecting flight in Atlanta. But, he said, even that doesn’t worry him that much.
“It’s good that the flights go to Atlanta now,” he said. “In the event someone does miss a connection, there are more options (for other flights) going out of Atlanta.”
Frank flies out of Muscle Shoals often and cited convenience as the top factor in his decision to use the local airport.
“The prices are a little higher than flying out of Huntsville, but it’s easier than having my wife drop me off and pick me up there,” he said.
The Florida-based airline is taking over subsidized commuter air service operations from Delta Air Lines.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Silver Airways a $16,098,538 annual subsidy to provide service in Muscle Shoals, the Mississippi communities of Tupelo, Greenville and Hattiesburg/Laurel, and Lewisburg, W.Va.
Silver Airways is expected to provide 12 weekly flights to Atlanta, two each weekday and one each on Saturday and Sunday, on a 34-seat, Saab 340Bplus. The Saab has comforts and amenities comparable to larger jet aircraft, including leather seats, large overhead bins, flight attendant service, on-board lavatories and a noise reduction system, according to a news release from Silver Airways.
“We’re proud to spread our wings to the great state of Alabama today and look forward to serving the Muscle Shoals community with a convenient bridge ... through Atlanta for many years to come,” said Darrell Richardson, CEO of Silver Airways, in a prepared statement.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.