The history of Silver Airways, Florida's regional carrier which says it's in 'dire need' of a bailout to survive the coronavirus crisis

Silver Airways

  • Florida regional carrier Silver Airways is at risk of
    disappearing as the novel coronavirus crisis has greatly impacted
    operations. 
  • In a letter to federal officials, the airline’s CEO stated that
    Silver is “in dire need” of government assistance to remain flying
    and may be the first independent regional carrier to collapse
    should the situation worsen. 
  • Silver primarily operates flights within Florida and to nearby
    Caribbean islands including the Bahamas and Cuba, with a
    newly-minted base in San Juan. 
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

Silver Airways may be the next regional airline in the US to
fall prey to a stark decrease in revenue and customers due to the
spread of coronavirus.

The unofficial flag carrier of the State of Florida is
requesting federal funds to stay in the air after the reduction in
air travel demand has seen the airline fall drastically short of
projected passenger carriage numbers, the airline stated in a
letter to federal officials. Silver Airways primarily operates
turboprop aircraft on regional and commuter routes across the
Florida panhandle with service to neighboring Caribbean islands, as
well as a handful of routes in other regions.

Silver is known for its inexpensive flights on single-class
turboprop aircraft with no extravagances such as first-class or
in-flight entertainment. Most flights operated by the airline are
short, with few above two hours.  

Unlike many of its competitors, Silver is privately owned and is
at the whim of its financiers, according to airline industry
consultant Henry Harteveldt.

Without the backing of a major carrier, the airline’s fate is in
the hands of its owner who may decide to close the airline if it
can’t return to normal operations, says Harteveldt, who listed
Silver as one airline that may not survive the downturn. 

The airline CEO Steven A. Rossum’s
letter to Florida’s federal representatives and cabinet secretaries
tasked with ensuring the survival of the airline industry

stated that the carrier is “in dire need” of a bailout and will not
survive without assistance.

“Our goal, to the extent possible, is temporary network
reductions while preserving the ability to spring back quickly
after this disaster passes,” Silver Airways spokesperson Misty
Stoller told Business Insider.

Most Americans may not have heard of Silver due to the limited
geographical scope of its operations, but the airline once provided
federally-funded lifelines to underserved cities under the
Essential Air Service program. 

Take a look at Silver Airways. 

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Silver Airways was formed for the remnants of Gulfstream
International Airlines, a regional airline similarly operating in
the American Southeast and Caribbean, by investment firm Victory
Park Capital.

Source:
Victory Park Capital

Formally launching operations in 2011, the airline began flying
with the goal of being the dream airline. “Our goal: to create the
dream airline — one that’s financially sound, safe and
professional, but also fun to fly and a great place to work,”
former CEO Darrell Richardson said at the time.

Source:
Victory Park Capital

Silver launched with a fleet of Beechcraft 1900D and Saab 340B
turboprops. While most airlines were shifting away from the types,
they would be the backbone of Silver’s regional-focused operation.
Its Saabs are still in the fleet today.

Source:
Victory Park Capital

Despite codesharing agreements with major airlines, Silver would
sell its own tickets and operate largely as an independent airline
privately owned by Victory Park, differentiating from other
regionals that are beholden to major airlines.

Initial service was East Coast-based with a large focus on
connecting Florida and providing service to the Bahamas. Services
outside the East Coast in locations such as Montana and Cleveland
were discontinued after a few years.

Source:
Silver Airways

Though largely independent, Silver also operated some regional
flights under the United Express brand in Washington, DC and
Cleveland, Ohio for a short period of time, stopping in 2017.

Source:
Silver Airways

The stint put the airline on the public radar after a Silver flight
operating on behalf of United landed at the wrong airport on an
intra-West Virginia flight from Morgantown to Clarksburg, a
25-nautical mile sector.

Source:
CNN

Taking advantage of its proximity to Cuba, Silver became the first
airline to sell tickets on scheduled flights to the island. The
airline later flew the first regular service following the opening
of Cuba.

Source:
Silver Airways

Before flights to Cuba began, however, Silver underwent a
recapitalization that saw the entrance of its current owners, Versa
Capital Management.

Source:
Silver Airways

As the airline matured, non-Florida routes were largely cut as the
airline shifted its focus back on the Sunshine State and closed its
DC base.

The number of routes the airline operated within the state,
underserved by the major carriers outside of hub cities, soared as
well as service to nearby Bahamas from major cities in Florida,
operating more flights in Florida than any other.

Source:
Silver Airways

An attempt by the airline to expand to Branson, Missouri failed
even before the first flight launched but the airline was awarded a
single Essential Air Service Route between Boston and Bar Harbor,
Maine. Its northernmost route, Silver was subsidized to the tune of
$1.4 million to fly it for the summer season.

Source:
Silver Airways
,
Department of Transportation
, and
AirlineGeeks

The airline also expanded south, acquiring San Juan-based Seaborne
Airlines, which operates a similar business model to Silver by
offering regional flights independently while codesharing with
major airlines. The acquisition gave Silver the foothold it needed
to eventually form a base in San Juan.

Source:
Seaborne Airlines

After years of operating a single aircraft type, Silver decided to
upgrade to a larger turboprop, the 46-seat ATR 72-600, ordering 19
with options for 30 more.

Source:
Silver Airways

The larger ATR’s would be the backbone of Silver’s San Juan
expansion to St. Thomas and St. Croix, announced just weeks before
the full impact of the coronavirus on aviation was realized.

Source:
Silver Airways

“Immediate and direct assistance is both respectfully requested and
required,” said CEO Steven Rossum in a letter to the federal
government.

“The jobs and livelihood of our loyal employees and passengers
we provide air transportation for, including military, leisure and
business travelers throughout the Southeast and Caribbean from our
gateways in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, San Juan, Puerto Rico,
and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are gravely at risk,” wrote the
company.

 

 

Source: FS – All – Interesting – Lifestyle
The history of Silver Airways, Florida's regional carrier which says it's in 'dire need' of a bailout to survive the coronavirus crisis