SkyWest buys a stake in commuter flyer Southern Airways

In a deal that the parties said is designed to strengthen pilot recruiting, the regional airline SkyWest has acquired a minority share of Southern Airways Corp, parent company of commuter carriers Southern Airways and Mokulele.

“SkyWest is the largest regional carrier in the world as measured by fleet size, number of passengers carried and cities served,” Southern said in a statement Tuesday. “This strategic investment by SkyWest will enhance Southern’s recruiting capabilities by providing a career pathway from flight school through Southern’s cadet program and ultimately to SkyWest.”

Southern currently employs more than 200 pilots, it said, and both of its carriers fly fleets of nine-seat Cessna turboprops. Mokulele primarily offers interisland Hawaii service, and Southern services the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Regional U.S. carriers have struggled with pilot recruitment and rising pilot pay in recent years amid an industrywide pilot shortage. The problem has been especially acute for the smaller regional airlines, which have had trouble paying competitive wages and are often disadvantaged by not offering pathways to major carriers.

SkyWest operates contracted flights under the United Express, Delta Connection, American Eagle and Alaska brands.

The companies did not disclose the terms of the SkyWest investment.

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