New air service takes off on Hyannis to Nantucket route
By Peter A. Sutters Jr.
I&M Staff Writer
A new company will soon test the waters – actually the air – of the Hyannis-to-Nantucket commuter transportation market and hopes to be up and flying by mid-month.
Doing business as The Shuttle, president, pilot and Nantucket native Mark Conway said after an evaluation of air service between Nantucket Memorial Airport and Barnstable Airport, he decided there was room for a third commuter airline to serve the 300,000 to 320,000 people that Cape Air/Nantucket Air and Island Airlines bring back and forth between the mainland and island each year.
“Forty dollars a pop equals around $12 million a year that has been split between the two,” said Conway. “We want a piece of that action.”
Conway said he hopes to have service between Nantucket and the mainland up and running by March 13 with four Cessna 402s, with two more Cessna 414s coming on line about a month later. The new airline will employ 10 pilots and four ground-crew members, two in Hyannis and two on Nantucket. At the Barnstable airport, the airline will occupy the old Continental terminal, while at Nantucket Memorial Airport, it will be tucked in the corner near the car rental desk and Nantucket Police kiosk.
Although Conway said the airline will carry anyone who wants to make the trip, the service will target commuters and will peg its single-ticket fares on the cost of commuter books offered by the other two airlines, currently about $400 for a 10-ticket book.
In addition to offering commuter-book prices without having to buy multiple tickets, The Shuttle will offer even deeper discounts on non-peak trips.
On Monday mornings, flights coming from Hyannis will be full, but the return trip will be empty. His solution is to fill those seats on the return flight by selling tickets for $29.95, which is cheaper than regular-price tickets on both fast ferries that service the island.
One potential snag in the plan is the name, which Conway wanted and still hopes to be Nantucket Shuttle Inc., which Cape Air has claimed it owns. It seems the dispute will be settled by the consumer affairs office of the state Department of Transportation.
“It’s in the hands of the lawyers on both sides,” said Cape Air spokeswoman Michelle Haynes. “We’ve used ‘Nantucket Shuttle’ for well over a decade, but whatever happens, it appears there is going to be a third airline servicing Nantucket.”
While Cape Air may have been using the term “Nantucket Shuttle” for over a decade, it appears they may not have kept up to date in protecting the moniker.
Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that it appeared Cape Air had let its rights to the name lapse for the past year, but did say the final decision was up to the Department of Transportation. He did say that Horizon Air Charter, doing business as Nantucket Shuttle Inc., had applied for and received all appropriate certifications to start flying whenever they are ready.
Conway said for now, the company will be called The Shuttle and will add “Nantucket” to its name once the dispute is settled in the near future.
Conway said that Cape Air has used the term “The Nantucket Shuttle” on its web site, but not as a name, rather as a claim that they are “The” Nantucket shuttle and he is confident that the issue will be resolved in his favor.
“They think they own every word and every tag line on their website,” said Conway. “They let the name lapse for over a year so I went and grabbed it.”