Cayman Islands-based regional start-up BlueSky Airlines plans to launch operations in the fourth quarter of this year with an initial fleet of two Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s.
The privately-held airline plans to operate within the Caribbean and to Latin America, and hopes to fill a niche in which non-stop service is currently lacking, BlueSky's chief commercial officer Mark Ellinger tells Flightglobal.
Travellers who are going from the Cayman Islands to destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America quite often have to go through Miami to transit, he says. "We want to open up new markets, underserved ones that will serve point to point regional traffic," says Ellinger.
Ellinger, a US citizen, had previously worked with Swiss and South African Airways (SAA). At SAA, he was the carrier's executive vice president for the Americas, based in Fort Lauderdale.
Grand Cayman-based BlueSky is now in the process of applying for its operating certificate, and Ellinger expects to "have it well in advance of the fourth quarter". The airline plans to operate up to four Q400s, depending on market demand. Its first Q400s are being leased from Polish carrier Eurolot, and have build dates in 2012 and 2013.
Potential destinations in BlueSky's network include Cartagena, Bogota, Panama City, San Jose (Costa Rica), Cancun, Nassau, Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and Tortola (British Virgin Islands).
"Our focus will be entirely that area, we have no intentions to go to the US," says Ellinger.
BlueSky will offer a two-class full service product on its Q400s, which will be configured with 71 seats - seven in business class and 64 in economy. The airline will serve complimentary meals and beverages, and offer a first checked bag for free.
Ellinger says the airline's product will be in line with the "high yield" passengers that the airline hopes to attract. "Cayman is an interesting market. It's small but it's a financial services hub," he says. Besides business travellers, BlueSky is also targeting high-end leisure travellers and visiting friends and relatives traffic.
The carrier hopes to eventually partner with Latin America's major airlines through interline deals. "We plan to work with the main carriers in the region, the Copas and the Avianca," he says, adding that the response from the carriers has been good so far. "Cayman is not on their radar screen, it's not a large enough market for the aircraft they fly. We can offer new traffic for them," he says.
BlueSky is also in talks with Cayman Airways to be potential interline partners.
Grand Cayman is currently served by 11 airlines, schedules in Innovata show. Most of these are North American airlines offering non-stop service to the USA and Canada.
Cuba's Aerocaribbean, Honduras' Aerolineas Sosa and Cayman Airways are the only Latin American or Caribbean airlines serving Grand Cayman. The airport offers non-stop service to Cayman Brac, Nassau, Havana, Le Ceiba (Honduras), Kingston and Panama City.