carrier Santa Barbara Airlines has won US authority to launch flights on
wet-leased aircraft to Fort Lauderdale, paving the way for the planned June
introduction of daily services from both Caracas and Maracaibo.
Barabara plans to wet lease from Spirit Airlines a McDonnell Douglas MD-88 to
provide the new services. As part of the planned joint venture between Santa
Barbara and Fort Lauderdale-based Spirit, the two carriers will also codeshare
on Spirit-operated connecting flights from Fort Lauderdale to several cities in
the Northeast and Midwest USA.
to Miami-based consultant John MacDonald, Santa Barbara will be responsible for
sales in Venezuela while Spirit will sell tickets to Venezuela throughout the
US Department of Transportation authority now in hand, Santa Barbara expects to
have its wet lease deal finalized with Spirit by 8 March, says MacDonald. He is
an executive vice president of Aviation Management Services, the Miami-based
firm that has been hired by Santa Barbara to plan for the introduction of US
says Santa Barbara plans to launch both the Caracas and Maracaibo flights “on
or about June 15”. He adds Santa Barbara will have full use of one MD-88, which
Spirit will retrofit to add legroom and accommodate larger galleys.
the aircraft is retrofitted, MacDonald says it will seat about 150 passengers
and be capable of serving hot meals.
Santa Barbara will have to overcome new competition from
American Airlines, which launched service to Maracaibo from Miami earlier this
month. On the other route, Santa Barbara will be one of several operators
flying between South Florida and Caracas, including American and Venezuelan
carriers Avensa and Aeropostal, all of which serve Miami.
Venezuelan regional carrier Avior has also sought authority to
launch service from Maracaibo to South Florida with aircraft operated by Miami
Air. But MacDonald says Santa Barbara is talking to Avior about instead forging
a possible joint venture on the new Spirit-operated Fort Lauderdale service.
Santa Barbara hopes it can differentiate its service by flying
into less congested Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami and codesharing with
Spirit to such destinations as Detroit, New York and Chicago. In addition,
MacDonald points out Santa Barbara will cater to Venezuelan leisure travelers
who are familiar with Santa Barbara’s domestic services rather than US business
travelers, which are the main focus of American.
In a filing responding to the Santa Barbara application,
Aeropostal says it does not oppose the request but only if it is granted
In its 5 March ruling, the DOT noted Aeropostal has never
requested to serve Fort Lauderdale.
“Should such a request be filed, we will consider it at that
time,” the DOT says. “In the circumstance presented, however, we see no reason
to withhold the requested authority from Santa Barbara.”
authority is effective immediately through 5 March 2002. Santa Barbara is
prohibited from operating its own aircraft with its new authority because
Venezuela has a category II rating under
the US FAA safety assessment program. Carriers based in category II countries
can only launch new services to the USA if they wet lease equipment from
airlines based in category I-rated countries.