Surf Air to acquire Southern Airways Express, go public

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Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways Express.
Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways Express. Photo Credit: Southern Airways Express

California-based Surf Air, which markets scheduled and unscheduled charter flights operated by third-party providers, has struck a deal to purchase commuter airline Southern Airways Express

Surf Air plans to complete the acquisition in concert with its merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Tuscan Corporate Holding Corp. II, which will take it public. 

The acquisition is part of a strategic initiative by Surf Air to transform itself into a leader in short-haul flying of hybrid-electric aircraft.

This summer, Southern Airways will operate in 38 cities. The company will use the Southern Airways Express brand for networks on the West Coast, out of Guam and in the Southeast, the Mid Atlantic and the Rockies. Southern Airways planes operate under the Mokulele brand in Hawaii. 

The carrier interlines with American, United and Alaska airlines and codeshares with the scheduled-charter provider and seaplane flyer Tailwind in the Northeast. 

Southern Airways flies a fleet of more than 30 small aircraft, with most of those being nine-seat Cessna Caravan and Grand Caravan propeller planes that have a range of approximately 1,000 miles. The company has a mixed business model, which includes operating flights out of a combination of commercial and private air terminals as well as operating 14 federally subsidized Essential Air Service routes. 

In a Wednesday announcement, Surf Air said that it plans to convert the Southern Airways Grand Caravans into hybrid-electric planes in partnership with technology providers Magnix and Aerotec. The hybrid-electric propulsion systems, once developed, will reduce emissions by 50% compared with the Caravans' present carbon footprint, Surf Air said.

The company said it plans to deploy the converted hybrid-electric fleet on regional routes being serviced today by Southern Airways and on additional routes in new markets.

Surf Air said the value of the proposed transaction is $1.42 billion.

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