Southern Airways Express of Palm Beach, Florida, the passenger service provider at Jonesboro Municipal Airport, has agreed to a merger with electric aviation firm Surf Air Mobility of Los Angeles.
Under the deal, Surf Air will upgrade Southern Airways’ current fleet of nearly 40 Cessna Grand Caravans to hybrid electric aircraft, the company said in a news release. The modified planes will allow Southern Airways to reduce costs, provide lower fares and help bring non-stop, regularly-scheduled flights to new markets.
The company aims to reduce carbon emissions by up to 25% with its first generation of electrified aircraft. The initial hybrids will not require charging stations, new takeoff and landing infrastructure, or changes to zoning, allowing the aircraft to operate anywhere in the U.S.
“The addition of Southern Airways will allow us to more rapidly bring green flying solutions to real flyers,” Carl Albert, chairman of Surf Air, said in the release. “Southern’s fleet of Cessna Caravans will be the foundation for the next generation of aircraft as we upgrade the fleet to hybrid electric powertrains.”
Surf Air currently offers charter flights in Arkansas from Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Northwest Arkansas National Airport in Bentonville, Fort Smith Regional Airport and Texarkana Regional Airport.
Southern Airways currently provides regional service to 47 cities across the nation. It logged more than 60,000 flights in 2021.
It became the regional carrier at Jonesboro Municipal Airport in March through the acquisition of Air Choice One of St. Louis. Flights to St. Louis and Nashville, Tennessee are offered under a federal program that subsidizes smaller carriers.
Stan Little, founder, chairman, and CEO of Southern Airways, will serve as president of the new company. Little said the company sees its routes between 50 and 500 miles as “as the quickest, most practical solution for bringing electric air travel to market.”
The merger is still subject to closing conditions and regulatory approval. It’s expected to close in the second half of 2022.
Around the same time, Surf Air expects to complete a $1.42 billion merger with Tuscan Holdings Corp. II, a special purpose acquisition company that’s taking the aviation firm public.
The combined company consisting of Surf Air, Southern Airways and Tuscan Holdings expects to generate about $100 million in 2022 revenue.