But Southern Airways does not yet have such an agreement with Delta, which operates the majority of flights in Atlanta. “We would love to have an interline with Delta,” Sisson said.
He said the Jackson-Atlanta route can attract both leisure and business travelers, calling Jackson a “growing business market” given its location near a planned Ford electric vehicle manufacturing campus called BlueOval City, which will be located between Jackson and Memphis.
The U.S. Department of Transportation chose Southern Airways, which operates as an FAA Part 135 commuter carrier, to fly 18 weekly round-trip flights from Jackson to Hartsfield-Jackson using Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft, at a subsidy of roughly $1.6 million a year through May 31, 2024. That amounts to an estimated subsidy of about $198 per passenger.
Before Southern Airways took over the federally subsidized route, it was served by Boutique Air. But last November, the Jackson airport director told the DOT that it wanted a replacement carrier because of “numerous flight delays and cancellations by Boutique Air.”
Southern Airways previously operated flights out of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, a general aviation airport in Chamblee. It discontinued those flights in 2016.
Now, Hartsfield-Jackson is seeking Atlanta City Council approval for the new lease with Southern Airways.
Ultimately, Southern Airways hopes to add more service using its small planes to places that don’t currently have airline flights. “There are plenty of cities that are within the flight time [to Atlanta] of our aircraft that right now do not have scheduled air service,” Sisson said, citing Tuscaloosa and Clemson as examples. “There are definitely possibilities out there.”