New air service coming to Oxford

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Memphis-based Southern Airways Express is set to begin executive-aircraft flight service from Oxford, Olive Branch and downtown airports in Memphis and Birmingham to several Gulf Coast destinations over the next several weeks.
Keith Sisson, a company spokesman, said the radar-equipped turboprop planes will transport nine passengers in leather-seated luxury with iPad-based entertainment, at prices from $129 to $249.
“We’re basically exporting the private-plane ownership experience to the general public,” he said. “Most of the people who’ve flown on these planes in the past have been business executives or people who owned their own planes.”
The non-pressurized aircraft will fly at around 10,000 feet – an advantage for sightseeing – with pilots who have thousands of hours of flight experience.
“With the exception of one younger pilot, they all look a little like Sully Sullenberger, so people will be comfortable with them,” Sisson said.
Flying Mid-South residents to executive airports in Panama City and Destin, Fla.; Gulf Shores, Ala.; and New Orleans was the idea that spawned the service, but it turns out there’s interest in the reverse as well.
“We’re going to be promoting travel to Oxford and Memphis for (Gulf Coast) residents,” Sisson said. “There are 200 members of the Destin, Fla., Ole Miss Alumni Association chapter that are very excited about being able to fly to Oxford.”
Service will begin later this month from Memphis’ General DeWitt Spain Airport and Olive Branch, with Oxford and Birmingham routes starting in early June. After Labor Day, a business-oriented service will prevail, with Oxford’s route – and possible service from Tupelo – extending to executive airports in Jackson and Gulfport. Southern Airways Express also plans to offer flights both to home and away games for Ole Miss football fans.
“This will be great for someone who’s looking to come to Oxford for a game,” said Mary-Kathryn Herrington, Oxford’s director of tourism.
Free parking and free baggage are two advantages that Southern Airways Express folks are touting, along with a 15-minutes-before-takeoff check-in whose only TSA screening is an automatic check of its no-fly list upon ticket purchase.
Add the use of small airports close to where travelers want to be, CEO Stan Little said at a fly-in reception in Memphis earlier this week, and “I can get you door to door, from your house in Memphis to your hotel on the beach, in two-and-a-half to three hours.”
Even the company’s retro uniforms are reminders of a time when air travel was enjoyable.
“We’re a Memphis-based airline – so much so that our pilots are wearing blue suede shoes as part of their uniform,” Sisson said. “We’re out to make flying fun again.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com

For more information
Currently SOUTHERN AIRWAYS EXPRESS is on Facebook. Sometime this week the company expects to launch its website,
www.iflysouthern.com.