The president of Puerto Rican airline Air Flamenco asked the local government to reconsider its endorsement of a subsidy to Massachusetts-based Cape Air for flights connecting the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport with the island municipality of Culebra, saying local companies were excluded in this process and the assumptions under which the incentive was given are wrong.
Francisco Torres-González, President of Air Flamenco, said Thursday the Tourism Company and the local Government endorsed and awarded a contribution of $251,224 to Cape Air “disregarding local lines, which for decades have offered flight service to Culebra.”
He went on to say that Cape Air sought a grant under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program — from which it will receive $900,000 — “without the appropriate aircraft to land on Culebra, a destination it have never flown.”
“Tourism Co. Executive Director Luis Rivera Marín said the subsidy was granted because the company will offer an essential air service to the community, when the truth is that the funds will be used to mostly offer tourist flights,” Torres-González said.
The local airline executive claimed the Government of Puerto Rico submitted a joint application seeking the subsidy that will benefit Cape Air, putting other regional airlines at a disadvantage.
However, a press release issued Thursday, Rivera Marín said one of the requirements of the federal grant application was that the airline had to have global agreements with one or more major airlines at airport from where it would fly, in this case LMM. Cape Air has agreements in place with JetBlue.
According to Cape Air’s application, service to Culebra will begin in May 2013 and run through April 2015. Aside from the government funding it will be getting, Cape Air will put up another $115,320 to finance the flight service.
Aside from Air Flamenco, MN Aviation and Vieques AirLink also fly out of LMM to Culebra, shooting down Rivera Marín’s statements that there are no other airlines offering that route.
The government official said the new route “would economically benefit Culebra residents and local businesses, providing greater access to government and commercial services.”
“This action in effect brings more competition to the market and makes a new airline available to visitors and residents of Culebra,” he added.
However, Torres-González shot down that argument as well, saying Cape Air’s new service would be seasonal “offered exclusively during the high tourism season, from October to May.”