DALLAS – A new deal is being made between commuter carrier Southern Airways Express (9X) and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) to operate flights between ATL and Jackson, Tennessee (MKL).
A story in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that the Palm Beach, Florida-based 9X, which operates its flights on small aircraft such as nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravans, was chosen to fly under the federal Essential Air Service program to preserve airline service to Jackson. The flights receive a subsidy of around $198 per passenger.
Jackson is a city 130 miles southwest of Nashville with a population of about 68,000. Southern Airways Express serves nearly 40 American cities across five U.S. time zones. It operates a fleet of over thirty aircraft, including the Cessna Caravan/Grand Caravan, the King Air Super 200, and the Citation Bravo.
9X began the ATL-MKL flights in June and has operated out of Signature Flight Support, a private terminal on the north side of the ATL airfield. According to the AJC, 9X has used Signature because the terminal at MKL does not have active TSA screening. Passengers had to be driven between Signature and the main terminals of ATL.
That is scheduled to change on September 22 when the TSA begins screening in Jackson. That will allow Signature to use the security-screened terminals at ATL, and current plans are for flights to use a gate on Concourse E at Atlanta. This will allow passengers to more easily connect to other flights. Signature has interline agreements with American Airlines (AA), Alaska Airlines (AS) and United Airlines (UA).
Southern Airways Chief of Staff Keith Sisson told the AJC that the Jackson-Atlanta route should 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. The campus will be located between Jackson and Memphis only 90 miles away.
Southern Airways operates as an FAA Part 135 commuter carrier. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) chose 9X to fly 18 weekly round-trip flights from MKL to ATL using Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft. The FAA subsidizes Southern Air to a tune of about US$1.6 million a year through May 31, 2024.
No More Boutique
Boutique Air (4B) previously operated the route, but in November, Jackson Airport told the DOT that it wanted a more reliable carrier, what with “numerous flight delays and cancellations by Boutique Air.”
The AJC quotes 9X as saying it hopes to add more services 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.”
Featured image: Southern Airways Express Grand Caravans. Photo: Southern Airways Express via Facebook