Memphis-based carrier Southern Airways is raising a new round of capital to fund its plans for growth across the company’s five-state footprint.
Southern Airways Corp. chairman Stan Little said the next round of funding will help the company secure more aircraft, expand its routes and add other new resources. To date, funding came initially from private Mississippi investors, but the next level is being considered by a group of venture capitalists out of New York.
Southern Airways says it’s seen robust demand for its corporate-style aircraft that accommodate nine passengers. The company’s model is akin to that of Pan American Airways of the late 1960s and ‘70s, down to its employee uniforms that are a nod to that luxury era of flying.
“Our demographics support what we know people are looking for, and that is direct service without bag fees, security hassles, or parking charges,” said Little, a North Mississippi attorney whose private plane used to be so popular with friends they joked he should start his own airline.
It was on a diving trip he took to the Caribbean in his Cessna 421 Golden Eagle that Little began to consider the idea of launching a regional airline. The initial route map was drawn up on a napkin at a cocktail bar in the Bahamas, and the idea grew from there.
“We’ve enjoyed being a Mid-South airline, and our corporate headquarters will remain here,” Little said. “Obviously, future growth plans will be dictated in large part by the wishes of our investors, and I know that the New York group is interested in our duplicating the Memphis to Destin, Fla., model in the New York-Hamptons-Cape Cod markets. My hope, however, is that they will share my vision of bringing non-stop service back to Memphis for a dozen or more of the cities that we lost following the Northwest-Delta merger. Until this year, Memphis was an airline hub in the Southeast region for the better part of half a century. Under our model, it can be once again.”
The airline launched earlier this year with an inaugural flight from Memphis to Destin. Southern Airways is a division of Memphis-based Southern Airways Corp. and at the moment serves 10 cities across five states from its hubs in Memphis and Destin.
The airline wants to continue to boost travel to Destin, Gulf Shores, Ala., and Panama City, Fla., as well as serve other markets.