WESTERLY, R.I. -- The owner of New England Airlines, which runs scheduled service between Westerly State Airport and Block Island State Airport, said on Monday that he has spoken with state officials about taking over summer service between T.F. Green Airport and Block Island.
Because of a nationwide pilot shortage, Cape Air has ceased all of its summer-only service at T.F. Green, including federal-grant-backed service that allows travelers on major airlines to book flights from anywhere to Green, and then transfer seamlessly to Block Island.
New England Airlines owner Bill Bendokas told The Providence Journal that he is considering the Green-to-Block Island service.
"It depends on the numbers," he said. "How much did they have to lean on the grant support?"
If the service can't be profitable without the grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, Bendokas said it wouldn't be worth running the service short-term.
Bendokas said that the pilot shortage is also an issue. He normally has eight pilots year-round and doubles that number to handle summer demand. That has become more of an issue in recent years, he said.
Other logistics of the industry, such as aircraft availability, may also pose and obstacle, Bendokas said.
"It's not like flipping a switch," he said. "It's just not that simple."
He suggested that operating charter flights, rather than scheduled service, between Green and Block Island might make more sense financially.
He said his talks last weeks with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, the state agency that runs Green and five smaller state-owned airports, including Block Island and Westerly, were only preliminary.