LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lakeland-based airline on the verge of closing when the pandemic brought an onset of travel restrictions is now on the rebound.
For years, Legends Airways would fly passengers around on charter flights to Key West and Bahamas and college sports teams to events nationwide. Then the pandemic put a pause on passenger flights.
“COVID hit and it was zero," Director of Operations of Legends Airways Daryl Hicks said. "Nobody flew. We were dead in the water."
Legends Airways was on the brink of closing, but founder Hicks had an idea. The airline shifted its focus from passenger service to cargo.
“We took our first plane, ripped the seats out of it," Hicks said. "Made it to a cargo aircraft and got our first contract. This is number six, it just came in, on Friday."
The airline now operates a fleet of six converted airplanes and offers customizable cargo flights, flying anything from car parts to Styrofoam, to anywhere in the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico.
The business move has been so successful that the airline is making more revenue than before the pandemic. Hicks said the cargo market is booming. He is adding three more jets to his fleet.
“That’s why we keep adding aircraft," Hicks said. "We're adding pilots, there’s a pilot shortage right now. We started the flight school four years ago to try to address the pilot shortage, as a conduit to our aircraft."