Seaborne studies scheduled service to Puerto Rico

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US Virgin Islands regional operator Seaborne Airlines intends to seek a federal waiver to operate scheduled service to Isla Grande airport, Puerto Rico.

The carrier currently links airports on St Croix and St Thomas with wheeled Twin Otter service to Isla Grande under a supplemental license. This is in addition to its high-frequency scheduled seaplane service between the harbours of both islands.

"We can do scheduled anywhere we want but we do supplemental to Isla Grande because it's not a Part 139 airport and FAA requires Part 121 carriers to offer scheduled service at Part 139 airports," says Seaborne president and CEO Omer ErSelcuk.

At present, Isla Grande serves as a reliever airport to San Juan's Munoz Marin International airport.

"We're going to try to get a waiver. We are working closely with the FAA to attempt to get a waiver to [offer scheduled service to] Isla Grande," says ErSelcuk. This would enable Seaborne to publish its schedule and fares to the airport.

Seaborne is not interested in serving San Juan's international airport, however. Codeshares and international service "is too much hassle for us" and entails significant start-up cost, says ErSelcuk, noting that the carrier really caters to local origination and destination (O&D) traffic.

Seaborne is also interested in participating in the US government's essential air service (EAS) programme. EAS does not address seaplane operations, but Seaborne "intends to apply for EAS for the wheel plane operation", says Seaborne director of operations Wayne D'Amico.

In terms of distance, Isla Grande is on the edge of what Seaborne can operate after it takes into consideration fuel, reserves and seating capacity.

But D'Amico believes there "is still a lot of growth in the Caribbean" such as to nearby Vieques and Culebre.