Nearly 18 months after launching flights between the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina and the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and Vieques, regional carrier Seaborne Airlines announced Wednesday plans to expand its fleet of aircraft, investing more than $7 million in three new planes.
The first Saab 340B will be incorporated into the fleet at the end of the year, with flights starting in January 2013. With twice the number of seats per aircraft and additional scheduled flights, the new planes will ease travel constraints in the USVI and Puerto Rico, said Seaborne President Omer ErSelcuk.
“The Saab is the perfect blend of comfort, speed, fuel efficiency and size. Larger aircraft cannot provide the higher level of frequency the traveling public prefers. While smaller aircraft tend to miss on comfort,” he said. “We believe the Saab is the best aircraft to help us grow our existing and new planned markets.”
This newer, fuel-efficient aircraft has the comfort of most modern jetliners and the increased speed that will provide the fastest overall journey on all routes Seaborne flies. They will replace the Twin Otter on San Juan flights while supplementing St. Croix/St. Thomas flights, he said.
The new faster aircraft will shave off about 10 minutes of flight time from San Juan to St. Thomas and approximately 15 minutes between LMM and St. Croix
A minimum of three aircraft are planned to be in service by March 2013, the Seaborne executive said, adding that its capacity will increase by 150 percent once the new planes are included in the rotation.
Meanwhile, ErSelcuk said Seaborne will double its flight schedule between San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix. It will add Tortola in October 2012, using the current airplanes and build up to seven flights daily by March 2013 when the three Saab aircraft are in service.