Airline to focus on direct private jet flights to Caribbean
A charter airline will be connecting Bermuda to the Caribbean with executive jets.
Bermuda Direct Air Service has a return private jet flight to the Dominican Republic scheduled in December and another in January.
The charter service is a subsidiary of Scotts Air, which is owned by Lawrence Scott, a Progressive Labour Party MP, former transport minister and chairman of the Bermuda Airport Authority.
Two test flights to the destination were run this year under the TXKF Direct name via charter aircraft with a capacity of 50 passengers. The private jets being used going forward will seat between 14 and 18 passengers.
While the new Gulf Stream IV aircraft are smaller and aim to provide a more “luxurious” experience, the flights will only be marginally more expensive than the charter service previously offered by the company.
Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette: “We are focused on quality over quantity — we scaled the seating down but increased quality of service on board to match business and first class. Our service is no less than business class and is comparable to any other first or business class service worldwide.
“We are now focused on what is called the experience economy. It is not just the destination that is the highlight of the trip, it is also the travel — you turn the journey into an experience. We are not the only ones doing this — Qatar and Emirates are doing a private jet service.
“We are charging $1,800 one way or $2,500 for a round trip to the Dominican Republic. However, we speak of convenience. You go to the private jet facility 30 minutes before departure, walk around to immigration, they mark your passport and there is an expedited security process.
“You then board the aircraft, where you are handed a complimentary glass of champagne and continental breakfast on a morning flight or champagne and light sandwiches on the afternoon flight. Compare that to going through the main terminal.”
Mr Scott estimated that a direct flight from Bermuda to the Caribbean via any other private jet service could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
He said the flights being offered are only $300 more expensive than the charter flights he ran in the summer.
He added: “Without giving away my secret sauce, I have been 30 years in the aviation industry, I am leveraging that knowledge and my professional relationships to benefit the country, to make Bermuda an attractive and affordable destination with a first-class air service.”
Mr Scott said if there is demand for more seats than the jet caters for, the company will just add an extra jet rather than using an aircraft with more seats.
Referring to challenges that Scotts Craft encountered on its launch relating to the requirement for some nationals to have a transit visa on arrival to Bermuda, Mr Scott said talks with the Government are continuing and operations have been adapted.
Mr Scott said: “There was a differing of opinion between our team and Government.
“Talks are continuing, and we are getting a better understanding of where they had some concerns about the process. One was having the aircraft start and end in Bermuda.
“In August, our plane came to Bermuda empty, picked up the passengers, took them to the Caribbean and brought them back, and that was the end of the flight. It wasn’t scheduled to go anywhere after that.
“The Government said, what if a person coming out of the Caribbean doesn’t have the proper paperwork and can’t be landed? How do we get them back? We adjusted our operation so the flights start and end in the Caribbean — if a passenger has to be repatriated, he goes back on the same plane an hour later.
“As it is a new business model, we are working through it with other relevant stakeholders and getting to a point where it is mutually beneficial for everybody.
“It is less of a concern for us but we continue to have dialogue with Government over ways to provide more refinement to the process.”
He said one passenger had to be turned away on the company’s second flight owing to the legal requirement and that the company fully reimbursed them.
Mr Scott said the company was looking at introducing direct flights to St Kitts and Barbados — two countries that do not require the transit visa to land here.
He said the flights to the Dominican Republic, a country subject to the visa control, would continue given there are enough people from the country who are considered to be belonging to Bermuda and are therefore exempt from the transit-visa requirement.
He said he hoped that an agreement could be met with the Government to relax visa laws to be able to provide a direct flight to Jamaica.
Mr Scott said the private jet service will cut travel times for those travelling between Bermuda and the Caribbean and will cut costs on journeys that often entail an overnight and multiple destinations. The flights to the Dominican Republic take 2½ hours.
He said once the December and January flights have been completed, the company will have an official launch around the second quarter of next year.
The return flights are scheduled to run on December 9 and January 3.