Muskegon County Airport (MKG) will offer 36 nonstop, round-trip flights per week to Chicago O’Hare International Airport through Southern Airways Express starting Oct. 1. From there, passengers can connect to United Airlines and American Airlines to continue their journey.
Currently, the airport only offers seven flights a week to Chicago, but SkyWest is ending that service. The new flights will be on a nine-passenger Cessna 208 Grand Caravan plane.
“It is a smaller aircraft than what passengers are used to experiencing out of Muskegon, but with the short flight distance, the flight time to Chicago will be very similar to the existing service,” says Joel Burgess, Muskegon airport manager.
The substantial increase in flight frequencies will allow customers greater access and connectivity into the national air transportation system. Increased frequency means more choices and more connecting options, which is important in today’s highly disrupted air travel environment.
‘County’s hometown airline’
“We are excited and proud that the U.S. Department of Transportation has placed its trust in Southern to serve as Muskegon County’s hometown airline,” Southern Chief Commercial Officer Mark Cestari says in a statement. “We have a simple and proven formula for success in our Essential Air Service markets — reliability, low fares, seamless connections to our interline partners, and the best community engagement program in the commuter business – to partner with our airport managers and local air travel stakeholders to encourage use of the airport and boost passenger enplanements.”
Essential Air Service is a federal program to provide scheduled air service to smaller communities that lost service because of airline deregulation.
The Cessna Grand Caravan plane is described as roomy and comfortable, with a large amount of personal space in each pod and room for oversized suitcases, golf clubs, and other larger checked bags.
Southern Airways began in 2013 with just two airplanes and three pilots. Now, less than 10 years later, it is one of the largest commuter airlines in the United States, operating over 240 daily departures across six time zones. The company acquired Sun Air International in 2016, and, from 2019 to present, boasts a near-perfect flight completion rate.
The company asserts that much of its success “can be attributed to its targeted expansion of scale and stability, its groundbreaking initiatives to solve the industry-wide pilot shortage, and its operation of the most reliable and modern aircraft.”
Burgess says there are plans to continue to expand flight offerings from Muskegon, adding that this contract does not limit efforts to attract additional air service.
When flights go on sale, passengers will be able to book flights on iflysouthern.com
, as well as any other booking sites customers are accustomed to using.