Southern Airways Express, one of the largest commuter airlines in America, has acquired St. Louis-based Air Choice One (Multi-Aero, Inc.). The move will strengthen the Essential Air Service offerings to the marketplace on the heels of the recent announcements of regional airline SkyWest and commuter airline Boutique’s intention to terminate service to at least 31 cities in the program.

This is Southern’s fifth airline acquisition in the last eight years. Southern was founded in Memphis, Tenn. in 2013 and has since grown into one of the largest commuter airlines in America. Now serving 38 cities from Nantucket to Honolulu, Southern has consistently ranked as one of the most reliable and on-time airlines in the nation. In 2021, excluding weather, Southern completed 99.3% of its nearly 64,000 scheduled flights.

The addition of Air Choice One grows Southern’s fleet size to nearly 50 aircraft and increases the number of pilots that Southern flows to the larger carriers. Since 2018, Southern and SkyWest have partnered to build the most successful pilot cadet program in the country, soon to be creating hundreds of pilots per year for the industry.

“This is yet another example of how Southern quickly adapts to the changing marketplace,” said Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways. “Air Choice One has an incredibly positive reputation; so, combining their leadership team and assets into our company will allow us to quickly respond to the immediate need of providing affordable and reliable air service to more of rural America.”

As part of the acquisition, Air Choice One CEO Shane Storz will join Southern as an executive vice president. In addition to decades of industry experience, he will bring a leadership team and other support staff that will be absorbed into Southern’s current infrastructure, allowing for safe, strong, and healthy growth over the ensuing months and years.

Air Choice One currently has one contract in the Essential Air service program: Jonesboro, Ark. Service from Jonesboro will be rebranded as Southern, allowing the city to enjoy Southern’s interline connectivity to major carriers. Southern has interline ticketing and baggage agreements with American, United and Alaska Airlines.

In addition to the immediate benefits, growing Southern’s fleet size further enhances the airline’s commitment to sustainable aviation. Southern has agreements with multiple technology companies to retrofit its aircraft with hybrid-electric, electric, and hydrogen-powered engines once those technologies are approved for commercial use, making Southern the worldwide leader in the next generation of passenger air service.