The new planes are 34-seat Saab 340 turboprops, with a crew including two pilots and a flight attendant. There is also in-flight service and a lavatory.
And effective April 1, more flights will be added between Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix using 17-seat Twin Otter aircraft. Combined with existing Twin Otter Seaplane service between the seaplane bases in Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted, Seaborne plans to operate 300 weekly flights with over 10,000 seats into and out of the territory.
“That’s a 50 percent total increase in seats,” Seaborne President Gary Foss said.
Seaborne said this will make it the Virgin Islands' largest carrier in terms of capacity.
Travelers to St. Thomas and St. Croix will also have access to Seaborne's premium lounge at the San Juan airport. The lounge offers comfortable seating, work areas, charging stations, light refreshments, Wi-Fi access, and Direct TV.
Additionally, corporate Seaborne customers have access to FasTrak SJU security access, which allows travelers to go to the head of the Transportation Security Administration line.
The new flights to and from the San Juan airport as well as continued seaplane equipment upgrades have been made possible by the expanded business partnership between Seaborne and the Government Employee Retirement System of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Foss said.
In September, GERS modified the terms of its loan to Seaborne and lent it an additional $1.5 million so the company could take advantage of the departure of American Eagle from the territory. GERS in 2009 loaned the company $3.3 million.
"As we move forward with this historic expansion - we want to thank GERS and the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands for their support and confidence in the Seaborne business model and growth plan,” Foss said.
He said that as one of the largest private employers in the territory, Seaborne understands the importance transportation plays. In concert with the GERS investment that makes possible additional capacity with larger aircraft, the company’s growth will enhance tourism and commerce while increasing employment.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty indicated she was pleased with the increase in service.
"The added capacity and equipment upgrades encourage more inter-island travel and ensure that travelers enjoy improved access to the territory, better connections, and greater comfort. This news is especially welcome from a locally-based airline that is uniquely positioned to bring additional employment and revenue to the territory," Doty said.
Seaborne Airlines operates over 350 weekly departures between San Juan, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Vieques and starting December, Tortola and Virgin Gorda.