Regional carrier Caribbean Star Airlines has doubled the operations of its US subsidiary Caribbean Sun Airlines as it considers future fleet requirements.

Caribbean Sun made its first flights from its base in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to points in the nearby Dominican Republic and increased frequencies to Antigua, where Caribbean Star has its hub. Launched in 1992, Caribbean Star began operating Caribbean Sun in January 2003 with flights to the US Virgin Islands and northern Caribbean island nations. The new routes take the carrier - backed by US investment capital firm Stanford - closer to its goal of serving all airports in the region.

Edward Gilkes, Caribbean Star's general manager commercial, says the subsidiary was established in the US dependency to link with flights from the USA operated by code-share partner US Airways. "In order to fly from San Juan, we needed to be established there, since most of the Caribbean has only Category 2 status [under the US Federal Aviation Administration's International Aviation Safety Assessment programme], so it would be impossible for us to fly from US territory." The carrier has no plans to operate direct flights to the USA, but wants full coverage of the Caribbean basin through its two bases, says Gilkes.

Caribbean Sun uses eight Bombardier Dash 8-100s, while Caribbean Star operates seven 50-seat Dash8-300s and three 37-seat -100s. A plan to replace the latter withadditional -300s is under way, but Gilkes says a wider upgrade plan will be launched in the first quarter of next year.

Gilkes says the carrier has held talks with US Airways about becoming a regional member of the Star Alliance under the US-based airline's sponsorship, and is exploring codeshare contracts with UK Star Alliance member BMI.

A full codeshare could be jeopardised for Caribbean Star routes as most states within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, including Antigua, are Category 2, prohibiting direct flights to US territory.


Source: Flight International