My Dad Is Flying An Airline I’ve Never Heard Of, And I Need A Drink

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Travel with my dad is always fun, and heck, my dad’s flights are even “exciting” when I’m not traveling with him. Perhaps for some context, check out my post from this past summer entitled “My Dad Is Flying Southwest, And I Need A Drink.”

Well, I bring you the latest installment of “My Dad Is Flying ______, And I Need A Drink.”

My Dad’s Adventures Flying To West Palm Beach

We are spending Christmas in the Palm Beach area. It’s the most central area for my family to meet, between Ford’s mom, my mom and her boyfriend, and my dad. My dad is visiting from Tampa, and while it’s only about a 3.5 hour drive, he’s getting to the age where he doesn’t feel comfortable driving long distances alone anymore.

So I offered to book him a flight. I headed over to Google Flights, and found flights on… Southern Airways Express?

I had never heard of them, but it seems like they fly 3x daily between Tampa and West Palm Beach… using a Cessna Grand Caravan. I have a lot of questions about the business model given that this isn’t an Essential Air Service (EAS) route, but that’s besides the point…

As you guys may remember, my dad isn’t great with technology at all. He got a cell phone for the first time a couple of years ago, and all he can really do is call and text (it has been so nice to see the extent to which he has embraced that). And yes, he still sends me a picture daily of his dinner, in case you guys are wondering.

So I presented the option to my dad.

“So dad… I can get you a nonstop flight from Tampa to West Palm Beach…”
“That’s great, Benny!”
“But it’s going to be on a small plane and on an airline you’ve never heard of, is that okay?”
“Yes Benny, that’s fine.”

I was kind of surprised he didn’t have more questions. Yesterday we talked on the phone.

“Benny, can you check me in online?”
“Dad, they don’t have have online check-in. It’s a very small airline.”
“Okay, so I just go to the ticket counter tomorrow?”
“Yes, when you get to the airport just look for the Southern Airways Express ticket counter.”
“The Southwest Airlines ticket counter?”
“Nope, it’s Southern Airways Express. It’s a separate airline.”
“Benny could you get me a seat assignment?”
“No, they don’t do seat assignments. It’s a very small plane.”
“Oh… like Southwest?”

Talk about deja vu. 😉

Well, he flew today, and I woke up to the following text from Southern Airways Express:

Southern Airways flights do not depart from the main terminal at Tampa International. Instead, we operate from Signature Flight Support, 2450 North Westshore Boulevard, Tampa, FL, 33607. There is no check-in counter at our private terminal. Please arrive 30 minutes prior to the flight, make yourself comfortable in the lobby and wait for one of Southern’s crew members to greet you approximately 15 minutes prior to departure.  Our pilots can be easily identified by their powder blue neckties and white hats. If you have any questions, feel free to call our Customer Service Center at 800-329-0485.

I got that text at around 5AM, so was going to wait until 8AM to call my dad to make sure he was up, to make him aware of this. But then at 8:30AM I got a call from my dad.

“Benny, I just called the airline and they told me they don’t leave from the airport. I have the address.”
“I was about to call you and tell you that but weren’t sure you were awake. But how did you get their phone number?”
“I called 800.555.1212 of course.”


As I mentioned when I wrote about the Southwest Airlines situation, my dad isn’t very good with technology, so he doesn’t know how to use the maps feature of a phone (though perhaps it’s something good for me to teach him when I see him!).

He knows how to get to Tampa Airport, but if he goes anywhere unfamiliar he has someone print out MapQuest directions for him (I feel like he’s the last person on earth to use that website?)… go figure he had no one today who could print out those directions for him.

Then mid-morning I got another text, which made all of this even more fun:

PRESIDENTIAL FLIGHT CHANGE NOTICE. President Trump’s visit to Palm Beach is closing the private air terminal to commercial traffic. Your upcoming Southern Airways flight between December 20 at 9:45pm through January 6 at 11:59pm is being diverted to the Atlantic Aviation terminal at BOCA RATON AIRPORT, 3700 Airport Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431. This is a government-mandated change. Flight times remain the same. Please call Southern’s Customer Service Center with questions. 1-800-329-0485

Suffice to say that this is inconvenient, and it’s rather annoying that they only told us this day of departure, given that this has been going on for flights for a couple of days now, and they knew this was going to happen.

That being said, I have to admit I got at least a slight level of satisfaction out of this, for no reason in particular. 😉

Then there has been bad weather in Florida for much of the day (and the past week, for that matter), so the flight was also delayed by over an hour. At least the flight wasn’t canceled, unlike the flight this morning.

On the plus side, I have quite enjoyed his updates throughout the entire experience, and he even just landed…

Bottom Line

I’m grateful that I’m able to spend the holidays with my family, though planning travel for my dad is always an adventure, given that he generally doesn’t embrace technology much.

On the plus side, I’m happy his flight wasn’t canceled, and that he has been a good sport throughout all of this.

I hope everyone’s holiday travel goes smoothly!

  1. So the FBO for private aircraft is shut down the entire time that Trump is in Palm Beach ?? What a PIA.

  2. ahem young Bennie……

    “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”–Mark Twain.

  3. Your dad is the best! You should do one post a month about what your dad is up to. Sharing his IMs is priceless!

    Happy Hanukkah Ben.

    Hope your mother is in remission and doing OK.

  4. Ben, off on a tangent here but you should review Kenmore Air’s Nerd Bird. The flight leaves Seattle from Lake Union (LKE) to Coal Harbor (CXH) next to Vancouver seawall. You can use it as positioning for your next Vancouver originated transpac flight, whatever it may be.

  5. Elteetrav – Yep….. there are Temporary Flight Restrictions whenever a President, VP, or certain other dignitaries are in town. The same thing happened for previous presidents as well.

    § 91.141 Flight restrictions in the proximity of the Presidential and other parties.

    No person may operate an aircraft over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures contrary to the restrictions established by the Administrator and published in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).

  6. It’s not shut down Elteetrav, you need to go through special security to land GA at PBI. There are only a few designated airports that would do that, and it’s a waste of money and time

  7. @Bob,
    i thought ‘Nerd Bird’ was taken by JSX’s OAK-BFI route? it’s all Amazoners. Kenmore Air’s been around longer though, so there’s that. Anyway, guess we can just call it the Nerd Bird daisy-chain of flights…

  8. you’re probably aware Ben and it is sort of out of the way in the Tampa area, but if you didn’t know the Amtrak isn’t a terrible way to go across the state if you’re good with the times they have

  9. It’s not their fault. I’d imagine secret service might not telegraph the president’s flight plan/timing until last minute to help avoid any shoulder fired rockets from the grassy knoll sort of situations.

  10. Flight review?

    Did he enjoy the flight? How was the soft product? Lie flat seats? Enquiring minds want to know!

  11. I used to fly Southern Air Express often from Johnstown and Altoona (rural airports in PA) to Pittsburgh and/or Dulles (a route they since canceled). It was a 30% chance your flight would take off, but usually had the plane to yourself and for $30-50, cheaper and more convenient than driving (for 1 person).

  12. @ Elteetrav. When Trump visits Palm Beach, a TFR goes into affect. Within 10 miles of trumps home, private jets can fly but it’s more complicated. Leaving PBI, you need to arrive an hour before, do a full security screening and the plane must take off with a strict IFR flight plan. Arriving at PBI, one must stop at a gateway airport such as FXE or ORL and clear security before continuing to PBI. It is a pain for everyone so most traveling to palm beach county use Boca airport as it is the next closest airport that can land private jets but is out of the 10 mile radius. Still, it is in the 30 mile cone so flight plans are still strictly enforced and VFR is prohibited. Commercial flights, because they are on a strict flight plan and everyone clears TSA, can continue to fly to the main airline terminal at PBI as normal. Although there are delays when he lands and takes off as airport shuts down

  13. YES! I have been waiting for the day when Southern Airways made it on your radar! As an airplane geek I love taking their DFW to Harrison, AR flight once a year for a conference in Branson. Yes, if there is weather you will be delayed. Once the plane was overweight and they had to get a volunteer to stay behind. But, it’s just you, two pilots, and six other passengers, and no bathroom. It’s a fun experience and you should do it once! Boutique Air is another one to check out.

  14. Coincidentally, the wiki for the airline Mokulele you linked to says they were actually bought out by Southern Airways Express this year.

  15. @Lucky…maybe I will see you around Palm Beach starting Wednesday. If you’re in the mood for Italian…Terra Fiamma at the Delray Marketplace (thats a plug for my brother-in-law).

  16. @Ted – VFR isn’t strictly prohibited when the TFR is on, you just need a squawk from ATC. You can fly VFR.

  17. They fly out of BWI and PIT too.

    he had no one today who could print out those directions for him.
    Benny, you are also not tech savvy like your dad.
    There are many printers out there that can print over the internet. You can order the print straight from your phone in your comfy CX F seat over the Pacific and it will print few seconds later to your dad’s printer. No more excuse for him getting lost again.

  18. Ben,
    Happiest of Holidays. How wonderful you can all gather together. I agree with the others that your father gives us all a unique point of view and it is refreshing.

  19. Yup. Remote print. He might enjoy larger iPad screens, too, which come with Genius Bar lessons. Libraries or Senior centers might have lessons on how to use Facebook, etc.

    A train or a car service could also have been ideas?

  20. Your Dad is the bomb. It’s not quite the same unless we get a couple of Germanic-accented, phonetically spelled words, however! 😉

  21. I flew on Southern all the time when they flew out of the city I live in. They are a good airline. I love it when the pilots don’t close the screen. That way you get a great view.

  22. Wow, Ben, I’ve been reading your blog daily for over 5 years and didn’t realize your parents were separated. I feel silly!

  23. I used to live in the Harrisburg/Lancaster area in Pennsylvania and flew Southern Express to BWI and IAD. They’re not a bad little airline and they even have TSA PreChk!

  24. I hope that subtle comment wasn’t an indication your Dad voted for Trump (yikes!).
    Nice that you prioritize family and help your parents out though. Decisions you won’t regret later in life.

  25. Glad he made it in, FLL was still closed from flooding this am after last night’s storm. Been down here since Thursday and glad I didn’t fly in today instead (I almost did). Bring on the sun.

  26. FLL was closed this am due to flooding from that storm last night and today. I Arrived in FLL last Thursday and nearly instead came this am – glad I didn’t. Bring on the sun, the extended storms are so unseasonal…

  27. You should get your dad to so some reviews.

    Will gve a totally different perspective from yours and what matters to a relativly infrequent flyer

  28. You’re dad is adorable lol! How is your mom doing? I hope everyone is well and you have a beautiful holiday!

  29. As a very viable alternative, I believe that Amtrak still offers a daily service between Tampa and West Palm. It’s a little over three hours, about the same time as drive time, and about the same time ‘door to door’ if you fly (considering all of the motions you have to go through at your departure and arrival airport).

  30. Your dad has such a funny sense of humor, his pics that he sent you made me laugh out loud. I wish my parents were willing to travel and communicate in that way.

    I hope you and Ford and your family.. and your dog! have a great Christmas. Be safe, relax and realize these are the moments worth more than any trip.

  31. I say this as someone who has had to (patiently) teach my parents a lot about technology, BUT what did your Dad do before Mapquest?

  32. @Daniel

    Look at how much people take for granted today.

    There is a time where Rand McNally is to Google Maps. And his dad probably lived in a time where AAA or gas stations have maps and gave directions.

  33. Now this made me smile. Your dad is a doll. And you’re a good son. Wishing you the very best holiday….

  34. Thank you for sharing Ben! It’s wonderful to see that your Dad has a sense of adventure.
    Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  35. The experience on Cape Air is very similar. From White Plains, they depart from the Signature terminal, and they do have the same signature cocktail your dad had. And they also use 8 seat Cessnas, which are a blast.

    Best of all: there’s no TSA security!

  36. This was a great family story to read during the holidays. Ben, wishing you, Ford and the whole family the very best for the holidays!

  37. The Cessna Grand Caravan is a great aircraft! It’s a real workhorse in Africa and other places where it can connect areas of the world otherwise inaccessible. I’ve landed on rainy gravel runways in Botswana and grassy areas of the rainforest of the Congo.

  38. My family uses Southern Airways between BWI and LNC (Lancaster). Yeah, they can be late – or even early if you are the only passenger and are ready- but it’s always been a good option for travel. Caravan is a great ride.

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