Cessna 402 operator Cape Air aims to end 2009 with 63 aircraft as it eyes more US and Caribbean service.

The Hyannis, Massachusetts-based operator was in the process of closing on its 60th 402 as of late 7 October, Cape Air vice president of planning Andrew Bonney tells ATI.

Cape Air is also looking for one additional 402 this year to add to its existing fleet, which also includes two ATR 42-320s.

The carrier's fleet expansion plans continue into 2010 when the airline intends to purchase five-to-seven 402s, Cape Air CEO Dan Wolf said at Boyd Group International's Aviation Forecast Summit in Lexington, Kentucky earlier this week.

Additional aircraft are needed as Cape Air seeks to enter new Caribbean and US Mid-Atlantic destinations, and pursues additional US Essential Air Service (EAS) opportunities in the Midwest, Wolf says.

Flights from Cape Air's San Juan, Puerto Rico hub to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands-its seventh destination from San Juan-are now expected to start next year as the Virgin Gorda airport completes a runway paving project, he says.

The airline had hoped to begin Virgin Gorda flights as early as this year but the service inauguration has been held up by the paving project.

Elsewhere in Puerto Rico, Cape Air plans to link Mayaguez with Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Cape Air would like to inaugurate its second destination from Mayaguez as soon as possible, Bonney says.

But there is no schedule for Mayaguez-Punta Cana to start as this route is contingent upon the airport in Mayaguez having US Customs and Border Protection, he says, explaining international service may actually require some construction at the airport.

The airline presently links Mayaguez with San Juan with funds from the US essential air service program.

The carrier also remains interested in service to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.

Cape Air would like to link cities served by JetBlue within 200 miles (321.9 km) from both places under an expanded codeshare agreement with the low-cost carrier, Bonney says.

"We're talking about this. [There is] mutual interest," he says.

There is no timeline for such efforts as it is contingent upon JetBlue's transition from the Navitaire system to Sabre, which Cape Air uses.

SabreSonic will power JetBlue's reservations, departure control, inventory and booking-engine capabilities starting in 2010. New York-based JetBlue also extended its existing distribution agreement with the Sabre GDS through 2012.

Cape Air has carried JetBlue's code on its Cessna 402-operated flights between Boston and the Massachusetts destinations of Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Provincetown since March 2007. JetBlue currently places Cape Air's code on 20 of its flights from Boston.

Cape Air COO Dave Bushy has previously said Cape Air is also interested in forming other codeshare relationships.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news