Cape Air vows to normalize flights soon


Andrew Bonney, Cape Air’s vice president for planning, joined the Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting yesterday at the Kanoa Resort to apologize publicly to the business community for the airline’s recent troubles.

Bonney, who was joined by other Cape Air officials and local staff, promised that the company is working hard on going back to normal operation. He pointed out that, when both its planes in the CNMI are operational, Cape Air has one of the world’s highest completion rates. Completion rate is the percentage of scheduled flights completed.

“What we are going through now, it does happen periodically, but it is out of the norm and that’s one of the things to keep in mind. [Cape Air] will go back to this very high percent completion rate [and] the great service we love to provide,” he said.

He also pointed out that adding a third plane to their Guam-CNMI route would result in an increase of $28 in fares.

“For us to bring a third airplane out there, you’d have to pay for it and so I broke down what it would cost to have a third airplane that was also just here in inventory but not fly online, as a spare. A brand-new airplane with the typical ridership we see here would cause the fares to go up by $28,” he said.

Scaling is at the core of the structural problem Cape Air faces in the area, according to Bonney.

He said their turboprop aircraft is most efficient for the relatively short trip distances here, noting that the area’s small market size also benefits from having high frequency.

“You need a relatively small aircraft because you don’t want to saturate the market with seats,” he said. “There aren’t just many other destinations to fly and add aircraft so you have better scaling when you have the inevitable scheduled maintenance routine.”

Cape Air has only one aircraft operating its Guam-CNMI route, with stretches of cancelled flights reported over the last months.

Its AT42 aircraft 834 is currently under scheduled maintenance. The other, 836, is scheduled for maintenance in the first quarter of 2015.

Of the two Cape Air planes, one is used as a “100 percent spare,” according to Bonney.

AT42 aircraft 834 is expected to “return in the near future,” according to Bonney, though a date was not specified.

“I can promise you we can have at least one aircraft operating here. There is no way we’re going to take the second one out,” he replied when asked if the 834 would be back before the first quarter of 2015.

He said the time for maintenance checks depend on “what is due,” noting where the airplane is and how many cycles and hours it has flown as factors.

“This one has been one of the longer checks that an aircraft will go through in its entirety cycle,” he said of 836.

He described the maintenance as more of a “structural inspection” where main airframes, spars, and panels are taken apart.

Bonney thinks the next check-up for 836 will be a lot faster because it went through a more significant check on its inspection three years ago.

He said they are hard at work for next year to get both aircraft back up.

“We know how important air service is, because in many of our 44 [destinations] they are islands like this where there is not a lot of great options,” he said.

When asked, he said he is not familiar with Rose Hocog’s petition, which called for local and federal inspection of Cape Air’s mechanical, safety and service issues.

“Cape Air works very closely with FAA. Safety is near and dear to our hearts. The reason we don’t operate the flights from time to time is to ensure that we have everything double and triple-checked. If it’s a petition asking for a safe airline, I’d sign it. The entire 1,000 employees of Cape Air would sign it,” he said.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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