Friday, March 4, 2016

Sun Air sold but Lancaster Airport (KLNS) flights unchanged


Sun Air Express has a new owner but will continue to provide the same service to Lancaster Airport, it was announced Friday.

The commuter airline, which has been flying here since November 2012, has been sold to Southern Airways for an undisclosed price.

Sun Air will continue to connect Lancaster Airport with Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. with the same schedule and rates, and initially with the same aircraft.

Sun Air, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, serves eight cities in the mid-Atlantic region. Its Lancaster passenger counts have risen sharply in recent months.

Memphis-based Southern serves four cities year-round and five on a seasonal basis, plus offers charter flights — all in the Southeast.

Southern has no plans to add flights to connect Southern’s market to Sun Air’s.

Stan Little, Southern chairman and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement was upbeat about the acquisition’s impact on Sun Air passengers.

Those passengers “will see only positive change from this merger,” said Little.

“All tickets issued will be honored. The schedule will be honored. The pilots and airport staff will remain in place,” he continued.

“But our communities, and thus our passengers, will soon see upgraded aircraft, more destinations and better schedules,” said Little.

Little said most of Sun Air’s fleet of Piper Chieftain aircraft, which are eight-passenger planes with piston engines, will be retired over the next year in favor of Southern’s Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft, which are nine-passenger planes with turbo-prop engines.

The Caravan, said Southern Chief Marketing Officer Keith Sisson, “has the feel of a corporate jet although it’s a nine-seat turbo prop. It’s very roomy. People will really enjoy it.”

Southern will keep the Chieftains in reserve, so if a Caravan is out of service, Southern will be able to still fly its routes on time.

Southern also will preserve the Sun Air maintenance facility in Lancaster, which employs more than a dozen workers, said Sisson.

“That’s a very important part of the operation. We’ll definitely be doing maintenance in Lancaster in the future,” he said.

No routes will be added to Lancaster in the near term, said Sisson, but Southern intends to add routes out of Sun Air’s Pittsburgh hub. Cleveland and Cincinnati are possibilities, he said.

Likewise, the Sun Air name will remain in the near term. But eventually, the Southern name will replace it, said Sisson.

Sun Air spokesman Mark Cestari said passenger counts in Lancaster are up significantly over the past 11 months.

In April, the first full month that Pittsburgh service was added to Washington D.C.  service, Sun Air sold 56 tickets to or from Lancaster. Last month, it sold 535, its best month ever in Lancaster.

Original article can be found here: http://lancasteronline.com

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