Taking flight, the way it should be!

Interior of the Cessna with leather seats and plenty of leg and arm room. Photo provided by Aurelien Carrigan/Southern Airways


When we imagine hassle-free air travel, we may envision the ultra-rich or those with generous expense accounts who have the luxury of flying from smaller airports on private jets. Most of us have seen the photos on social media and entertainment shows of sharply dressed celebrities with designer luggage posing for the paparazzi before boarding a private jet.

However, this mode of travel is not necessarily only for the rich and famous anymore. A similar service is now available to the public and is surprisingly affordable. With fares as low as $98 to select destinations, Memphis-based Southern Airways Express, now operating out of DeKalb Peachtree Airport, is changing the way we fly. Chairman and CEO of Southern Airways Stan Little said he wants to “bring back the old days of flying.”

I recently had the pleasure of flying on Southern Airways from PDK to Memphis and was certainly impressed with the departure from what has now become the norm for air travel.

 Southern Airways customer service counter in Memphis
Southern Airways customer service counter in Memphis

A couple of hours prior to my scheduled flight, I glanced at my watch and became a bit anxious thinking of the normal hassles of flying out of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. I hurriedly left the office, rushed to my car and then realized that all I had to do was drive the short distance to PDK in Chamblee, and there was no need to rush. A sense of calm came over me. My entire mental state changed quickly; I was actually looking forward to the flight.

Upon arrival at PDK, there was complimentary parking within feet of the Signature Flight Services executive terminal. Pleasantly absent was the need to drive row after row in search of a vacant parking space, or the concern for the security of my car.

Inside the terminal are leather upholstered seating areas which overlook the airfield; passengers can watch incoming and outgoing flights, charge their devices or just relax. There are also complimentary beverages and luxurious bathrooms. And even better, there are no crowds, lines or messages blaring from a public address system.

Instead of being required to go through the typical prescreening of baggage and a full body scan, or even more intrusive, a physical pat-down, passengers on Southern Airways are greeted by a staff member, who in my case was actually the pilot, and asked to show photo identification. It is that simple. Passenger names are entered into the Transportation Safety Administration’s database when reservations are made, so there is also no concern for safety.

 A Southern Airways Express plane readies for takeoff from DeKalb Peachtree Airport
A Southern Airways Express plane readies for takeoff from DeKalb Peachtree Airport

The pilot took my bag and personally loaded it onto the aircraft—another pleasant surprise! There was no concern of seeing my bag thrown onto a conveyor belt and wondering if it would make it to the right plane and destination.

The entire process of arriving, parking, checking in and being cleared for boarding took less than 10 minutes and was more like being welcomed to a private VIP event than what we are accustomed to on a typical commercial flight.

Within minutes, the pilot announced that passengers could board at their leisure and take any seat they wanted. We were also told that if we wanted to keep our cell phones on, no problem. There was no lengthy set of safety instructions by flight attendants nor was there a wait on the tarmac.

The engines started, the pilot confirmed that all passengers were securely buckled in, and we taxied to our take-off position.

From arriving at the terminal to actually being airborne, the time span was no more than 30 minutes.

Waiting area at Signature Executive Terminal in Memphis
Waiting area at Signature Executive Terminal in Memphis

As impressive as the arrival and check-it was; the inflight experience was even more pleasant. The leather-upholstered seats can be moved forward, backward or reclined to ensure passenger comfort, and armrests can be positioned up or down and are not shared with another passenger.

There are only two rows of seats on the Cessnas in Southern’s fleet so passengers are never crowded or exposed to a less-than-pleasant stranger in the adjacent seat. Each seat also has a window view and aisle access.

In addition to comfort and convenience, another benefit to flying in smaller aircraft is the cruising altitude, which typically is lower than the altitude of jets and allows passengers to have a constant aerial view of the landscape below. As we departed PDK, we had an impressive view of the former General Motors production plant and the downtown Atlanta skyline. While in-flight, we also had the pleasure of viewing numerous bodies of water and mountains along the route and literally flying among the billowy, white cumulus clouds.

On arrival in Memphis, a uniformed representative of Southern Airways met the plane on the tarmac offering an assisting hand if needed and telling us where to retrieve our checked baggage. As is the case at PDK, the Memphis Signature Flight Support terminal is luxurious, uncrowded and easy to navigate.

Instead of retrieving bags at a crowded carousel, a staff member called the names on bag tags, and set them beside the counter. As I retrieved my bag, another representative was gracious enough to ask if I needed transportation and offered to call a taxi. That’s the kind of unheard of customer service that makes for such as overall positive experience. It’s professional, yet personal; it’s welcoming and genuine. It is like a throwback to the old ways of flying where the passenger’s comfort was the main priority.

Having flight options such as Southern Airways gives the traveling public an opportunity to truly enjoy the experience and not be rushed or crowded at any time. It seems to me that Little and his company are doing an excellent job of achieving the goal of bringing back the old days of flying.
I have already recommended DeKalb’s only commercial passenger service to numerous friends and associates and intend to use them for weekend jaunts to Destin, New Orleans, Chattanooga and Nashville in the near future.

For additional information and a full flight schedule, visit www.IFlySouthern.com.

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