BY LENA MITCHELL

Daily Journal

Tupelo will lose Saturday night service as a result of Northwest Airlines' plan to reduce service from its Memphis hub in January.

"All we're going to lose is the evening departure and arrival on Saturday," airline spokesman Jamie Owens said. "It doesn't start until Dec. 20. The last departure will be 3:50 p.m., and the last arrival will be 6:11 p.m."

Despite the loss of the last flight out, which departs Tupelo at 7:45 p.m., the Memphis changes may help travelers to and from Tupelo in another way, said airport director Terry Anderson.

"There have been a couple of instances where, if flights are delayed, or if the connection is missed in Memphis, there is a fairly long wait," he said. "They're going to a new system ... which will probably give us a little better connections and more flexibility, for instance in bad weather."

He also noted that the soon-to-be-discontinued flight "has historically been a low usage flight for us."

Passenger boardings continue to increase out of Tupelo, continuing a rebound from the decline caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Reducing the number of flights does not eliminate any of the 78 destinations the airline serves, but there will be 44 fewer flights per day as a money-saving measure.

After the 9/11 attacks, Northwest decreased Tupelo service to three flights per day into and out of the airport. It returned service to four flights per day in June 2002.

Tupelo Regional Airport was awarded a $475,000 Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program grant last week to attract a second airline to serve Tupelo travelers and establish a connection to the Atlanta hub.

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