Southern Airways announced today that it has acquired Mokulele Airlines in Hawaii. Southern plans to keep the Mokulele brand, while operating all flights on the Southern Airways FAA operating certificate. The acquisition, which closed Friday, makes Southern the nation’s largest commuter airline operator.
Prior to the acquisition, Southern operated 600 weekly flights across 20 cities in the Gulf South, the mid-Atlantic and Florida. The deal adds Hawaii and California to Southern Airways’ portfolio, is the carrier’s third deal in 4 years. Southern Airways, which was founded in 2013 and will now serve 30 cities stretched across 5 time zones.
Mokulele, which was most recently owned by Transpac Aviation Inc., served 11 cities with 787 weekly departures. The 15-aircraft carrier also serves 4 rural communities under the government’s Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which ensures that smaller communities are linked to the National Air Transportation System, with Federal subsidy when necessary.
Southern’s chief marketing officer Keith Sisson said the deal, which is mostly financial, includes all assets of Mokulele Airlines and will bring the combined employee count to 550, and all current Mokulele employees will be kept on.
Growth plans for its new brand include obtaining more interline baggage agreements with major carriers. Mokulele already has interline agreements with Alaska Airlines and New Zealand, while Southern Airways has agreements with American Airlines and Condor Airlines.
Sisson said the airline also will consider adding new interisland and EAS routes and expanding its air tour footprint. Southern Airways also serves EAS cities. In fact, the carrier said it’s coming off a record-setting year for passenger growth in the EAS cities that it serves. Some of the EAS cities that Southern served saw a 40 percent increase in traffic over the prior year and many of their airports had their best year for enplanements in more than a decade.