Scheduled air service returns to Region 8

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -Today marks the first day of scheduled airline service to Jonesboro in over a year.

Oregon-based SeaPort Air will be serving Jonesboro from Memphis with three flights a day.

The first flight arrived around noon on Monday.

It was a very exciting day according to Chris Landers, one of the agents here in Jonesboro.

From welcoming speeches to red ribbons to a 2 and 7/8 year old girl getting her first airplane ride, Region 8 was back on an airlines schedule.

The Pilatus P-12 that Seaport flies only carries 9 passengers.

I asked Mayor Harold Perrin just before the flight arrived if he thought that this airline was the right fit for Jonesboro.

"I think it's like anything else Keith, we're just gonna have to look and see and evaluate it but right now yes I think it would be the right size."

SeaPort will be serving four cities in Arkansas from its Memphis hub: Jonesboro, El Dorado, Hot Springs and Harrison.

Seaport's CEO Kent Craford was the first passenger off the plane.

After Mayor Perrin presented him with the key to the city, Craford addressed the crowd.

To make this airline service work Craford said, it has to be a partnership.

"We're in this together, this is a partnership and it's going to take all of you, flying with us to make this work long term."

Craford says it will take time to build up ridership after not having an airline for so long.

"It's a challenge rebuilding air service after you've been without for over a year. You know folks get out of the habit of flying through Jonesboro. We've already got 5 people going out on the next flight so the planes already half full on it's first day so that's a good sign."

Even though Memphis is just a short flight down the road , both the mayor and Craford say it's important for a city like Jonesboro to have an airline.

Mayor Perrin, "When you look at economic development it's one of the things on their checklist to see if your city has a commercial airline."

Craford, "To be able to get to nearly 80 destinations across the country in just one quick stop through Memphis, that brings the rest of the world closer to Jonesboro."

Monday's departing trip to Memphis was fully loaded with corporate folks and paying passengers.

The smallest passenger Kyra Gant who is almost 3 was taking her first airplane ride with Billie and Louie Ulmer for an overnight trip for a little shopping.

Kyra told me she liked to go up high but thought the airplane was to blue for her tastes.

Kyra was a little bit reluctant to get on the plane but she waved as they taxied out.

This week SeaPort will only run the noon flight until they add another plane to this hub which should be very soon.

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