FALLS CREEK – The demand for air travel is taking off once again, according to Southern Airways Chief Commercial Officer Mark Cestari, who spoke to the Clearfield-Jefferson Counties Airport Authority meeting this month.
“There is strong demand for travel as most Americans, who are still somewhat cautious, are anxious to put COVID-era restrictions behind them,” said Cestari. “The court ruling striking down the inflight and in air mask mandate last week is a big positive step.”
Cestari said research shows that about 25 percent of the public has not been flying since COVID precautions and limitations went in to place in 2020.
“Unfortunately, staffing and supply chain issues are negatively affecting the entire hospitality industry,” he said. “Many large airlines have been forced to reduce their planned flying due to pilot, flight attendant and other staffing shortages. Southern’s operations have not been negatively impacted, however, due to a strong recruitment and retention program for pilots and all employees. ”
Cestari also said that Southern, which is the passenger carrier that serves DuBois Regional Airport, is continuing to grow and expand, recently acquiring Air Choice One, a St. Louis-based commuter airline with an excellent operating and safety record.
Air Choice operates Cessna Caravan aircraft, which are also the backbone of the Southern fleet. He said Air Choice also has a maintenance base in St. Louis, which will allow the new company to expand into the Midwest region.
Southern will also add a few new Essential Air Service (EAS) cities to its growing network, including Jonesboro, AR and Jackson, TN and new hub operations in Atlanta and St. Louis. Louis, he said.
Cestari said that the Southern leadership team also continues to grow. John Grief, formerly of Tropic Air Belize, has been named the company’s new Chief Operating Officer.
“Southern now has over 500 employees and is the largest commuter airline in the US, operating over 200 flights daily,” said Cestari.
He also said that Southern Airways continues to partner with DuBois Regional Airport and the local hospitality community to raise awareness and usage of their daily service to both Pittsburgh and Washington / Dulles Airport.
“Southern has interline partnerships with Alaska, American and United Airlines which allows DuBois passengers the benefit of single ticket itineraries, checked through baggage and 24-hour customer service support,” he said. “The post-COVID popularity of outdoors and adventure travel to rural areas has DuBois well positioned to capitalize on this trend come summer of 2022.”