The recommendation now goes to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Bland was assisted in his selection by a panel of seven community members who studied the proposals.
ExpressJet was one of two airlines to submit bids for Meridian's air service. Silver Airways announced in April it is leaving Meridian and several other cities in Mississippi. The other bid came from Aerodynamics Inc., which offers service to Atlanta.
Bland said ExpressJet will have flights to Dallas-Fort Worth International, with some flights including a short layover at the Hattiesburg-Laurel airport. Its jets carry 50 passengers. The schedule has not been finalized.
Bland said ExpressJet is approved by the Department of Defense as a carrier of military personnel, which potentially could allow men and women coming to Naval Air Station Meridian to fly into Meridian, instead of Jackson.
The ExpressJet fare will be pro-rated, which means it will be part of American Airlines overall pricing structure, allowing more flexibility for creating competitive pricing, Bland said. He added that the airport will work aggressively with American to ensure competitive pricing with Jackson.
Tom Williams, president of Meridian Airport Authority, said that ExpressJet aligning with American Airlines just made it more attractive for Meridian. He said there is no indication yet what the price range will be for passengers.
Silver Airways is also discontinuing service between Atlanta and Meridian and four other airports in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Greenville, Hattiesburg-Laurel and Tupelo in Mississippi. Those cities are also looking for new air service.
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