US regional Southern Airways Express has acquired Hawaiian-based commuter carrier Mokulele Airlines, in a deal that will result in the combined entity operating 1,380 weekly flights. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Southern said one of its goals for the expanded company will be to obtain additional interline ticket and baggage agreements with major carriers.

Southern has interline agreements with Dallas/Fort Worth-based American Airlines and German leisure carrier Condor Airlines, while Mokulele has agreements with Alaska Airlines and Air New Zealand. Expanding those partnerships to include multiple national and global carriers will be the focus post-integration, the airline said in a statement. 

Southern said it intends to keep the Mokulele brand alive in the Hawaiian Islands, while eventually operating all flights on the Southern Airways’ FAA operating certificate. 

Mississippi-based Southern, founded in 2013, offers scheduled regional service to more than 20 cities in the Gulf and Mid-Atlantic regions with a fleet of 24 aircraft, comprising the Cessna Caravan, Grand Caravan and Piper Chieftain, according to its website.

In 2015, Southern acquired Illinois-based charter company Executive Express Aviation. In February 2016, Southern acquired Sun Air Express, a commuter airline operating Essential Air Service (EAS) contracts in the Mid-Atlantic. 

In November 2018, Southern launched service between Palm Beach, Tampa, and Key West (Florida), replacing routes abandoned by Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based regional LCC Silver Airways.

Mokulele Airlines, founded in 1994 by Rebecca “Kawehi” Inaba, was the first airline started by a native Hawaiian woman. The airline was sold in 2005 and had multiple ownership changes until it found stability with its latest ownership group, Transpac Aviation Inc. Since 2011, Mokulele said it has grown to 15 aircraft, Cessna Grand Caravans, serving 11 cities, including four EAS communities. Mokulele currently operates 787 weekly departures. 

Southern chairman and CEO Stan Little said, “We’ve looked at several potential acquisitions over the last couple of years. This was the first opportunity that I believed to be the perfect complement to operation. We fly the same aircraft type, we have similar operational structures and their assets and revenue streams help diversify our balance sheet. This acquisition will give the newly combined company stability in an otherwise volatile marketplace, while making Southern Airways a nationally recognized brand.”

Linda Blachly