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Aviation Taxes Deter Airline's Expansion

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

SILVER Airways yesterday announced increased frequencies on its existing Florida/Bahamas routes, its president and chief executive admitting that new taxes levied against the aviation sector had deterred it from expanding its routes to this nation.

The Fort Lauderdale-based carrier said it will launch several new routes this fall to better connect points within the state of Florida, while also boosting its existing service between Florida and the Bahamas.

“If we see more opportunities to grow in the Bahamas we will absolutely look at them,” Dave Pflieger told this newspaper.

“We will add frequencies and additional flights where we see a need and where the demand is. One challenge is the new taxes, which are going to significantly increase everyone’s cost. That becomes a challenge when you look at opportunities to grow, but so far so good.”

He added: “We would like to do more. It [the new taxes] has deterred us from doing expansion because all we’re announcing is additional frequencies into places we already fly.

“We’re just tweaking the schedule if you will. Our challenge as a small airline is making sure that our costs stay in line with what we are going to be able to charge passengers.” Silver Airways also has routes between Florida and Bimini, Exuma, Governor’s Harbour, Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay.

While declining to comment specifically on load factors and the profitability of Silver Airways’ Bahamas routes, Mr Pflieger said: “I think people are thrilled with what they see. The customer response from what we have seen and heard here has been very good in terms of replacing the 1900’s with the Saab 340.”

Silver Airways plans to deploy Saab 340Bplus aircraft on its new routes. The airline operates the largest fleet of 34-seat Saab 340Bplus aircraft in North America.

Mr Pflieger added that the airline had launched its new reservation system in June. “Now we have our own website. Previously, if someone tried to book a flight with us they would be taken to United Airlines’ website. Now you can go directly to SilverAirways.com and find specials on tickets, fares, all those things,” said Mr Pflieger.

The airline, which claims to operate more non-stop intra-Florida routes and serves more Bahamas destinations than any other US airline, also announced one-way sales fares starting as low as $69 through September 9.

Beginning November 21, the carrier will launch new non-stop services from West Palm Beach to North Eleuthera, Friday-Monday, and to Freeport Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Silver Airways will be offering fares as low as $69 from Orlando to West Palm Beach or Tallahasse in addition to $139 Fares from West Palm Beach to Freeport, and $169 from West Palm Beach to North Eleuthera .

Silver Airways operates more than 100 daily scheduled flights to and from 29 gateways in Florida, the Bahamas, Montana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The company is owned by Victory Park Capital, a Chicago-based investment firm. The Silver Airways fleet is comprised of three Saab 340Bplus aircraft (maximum seating capacity of 34 passengers) and 21 Beechcraft 1900D aircraft (maximum seating capacity of 19 passengers).

The new aircraft will be used to upgrade service on existing routes, increase frequencies and allow Silver Airways to add new service in additional markets.

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