Air South

Air South

There were several airlines in the United States known as Air South.


Air South was a regional airline operating out of Atlanta Municipal Airport. Founded as Nationwide Airlines Southeast in 1968, it served a variety of destinations in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Its all-propeller aircraft fleet included the Martin 4-0-4 as well as the Beechcraft 99, one of which crashed near Monroe, Georgia on July 6, 1969.

In 1975 it was acquired along with Shawnee Airlines by Florida Airlines. Florida Airlines went into rapid decline almost immediately with the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act and ceased operations in 1978.


The later Air South (IATA: WV, ICAO: KKB, and Call sign: Khaki Blue) was a low-cost, high frequency, short haul airline based at Columbia Metropolitan Airport serving Columbia, South Carolina and the Southeastern United States as far south as Miami and as far north as Baltimore. It operated from 1994 to 1997 using seven Boeing 737-200 aircraft to initially offer low cost, high frequency jet service, to smaller local markets rarely served with jet aircraft, using where possible alternative airports such as St Petersburg. It had planned to operate to the alternative Sanford airport (Orlando) and Fort Lauderdale Airport (Miami) and did operate for a short period to Baltimore (Washington). Later, new management canceled this Southeast Airlines style strategy, and many of those markets, in order to serve New York (JFK and Newark) and Chicago and compete with the major airlines. This was a financial disaster which drove up the low seat mile costs of its first year end (8.5 cents) to as a high as 13 cents in 1997

The first startup airline partially financed by a U.S. state, Air South also boasted initial equity investment from its founders and directors, and local citizens. It had the support of South Carolina Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. and Columbia mayor Bob Coble. As a condition of its low cost state loans, it hired several hundred local staff in Columbia, a highly successful project

Unlike some startup airlines, it also supported the travel agent distribution system and was listed in all Global Distribution Systems [1] . The basic strategy, aircraft type and seating, in-flight service and philosophy mirrored that of Southwest Airlines, not then operating in the region:

Jacksonville, Florida;
Miami, Florida;
St. Petersburg, Florida;
Tallahassee, Florida;
Tampa, Florida;
Atlanta, Georgia;
Savannah, Georgia;
Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Midway International Airport);
New York City (John F. Kennedy International Airport);
Newark, New Jersey;
Raleigh, North Carolina;
Charleston, South Carolina;
Greenville, South Carolina;
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina;
Norfolk, Virginia;
Baltimore, Maryland

The airline's experiment of seeking debt financing from the state and local governments was strongly criticized by a very negative local press, a most unusual reaction when an airline increases air service to a market. This, even after its first profitable month occurred in its first year of operations. This drumbeat of negative news in turn heavily impacted local confidence in using its service.

After a promising start, the new management change in strategy to the Mid West and Northeast, resulted in many flight delays and cancellations on the heavily competitive routes to New York and Chicago where winter weather always impacts flight operations. At one point it had to contract Viscount Airlines, a charter operator with scheduled authority, to cover some of its flights. Its ability to obtain additional aircraft to reduce unit costs was then also impacted. While the state debt service costs were reasonable, conditions were onerous, severely restricting its operational flexibility. Following the Valujet accident in Florida in 1996 startup carriers had many restrictions imposed resulting in further increasing unit costs. This resulted in the failure of many airlines and the merger of Valujet itself.

Air South ceased operations on August 28, 1997 having lost $60 million , including $12 million debt financing from the state of South Carolina and some $1.5 million each from the City of Columbia and counties, and the equity investments of its founders, local investors and employees, and the professional investors who followed.

Southwest Airlines shortly afterwards started operations in, and to most of the Florida cities in the original Air South plan and adding most other routes over time, with the exception of Atlanta and Columbia itself. This was the one of their most successful service starts to a new region.

Other airlines by same name

* Ex-Airline in US taken over
* 1981-1982 - small commuter airline based in Mobile, Alabama
* 1986-1987 - small commuter airline based in Homestead, Florida

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