March 14, 2006 — One V.I. resident optimistic about the economic future of the territory is Marvin Ruthenberg, the new president and chief executive officer of Seaborne Airlines.
He is also upbeat about the role his company will play in that future.
He said Tuesday, "We are looking forward to making Seaborne the premier and most desired method of transportation in the Virgin Islands."
Although Seaborne's service is concentrated between St. Thomas and St. Croix, with 60 flights a day, there should be some expansion in service this year.
According to Ruthenberg, the company has seven planes, but two are being overhauled and two more need to be overhauled. This leaves three planes presently carrying the workload. Also, Ruthenberg said it is hard for the company to maintain enough qualified flight crews.
So, besides the flights between St. Thomas and St. Croix, Seaborne has only been able to offer about one flight a day to Puerto Rico and that is even being reviewed.
Talking about the St. Croix-St. Thomas connection, Ruthenberg said, "We have strategically adjusted our San Juan flying until July so we can provide more capacity in this market."
But Ruthenberg added that everything is not going to be tight forever: "As we move into spring, we will slowly begin adding flights on peak travel days. These flights were made possible by the recent growth in the ranks of our flight corps."
He added, "In another perk for business travelers, effective April 1, we will add WiFi hotspots at both our St. Croix and St. Thomas stations. This service, provided by Ackley Communications, will allow anyone with a wireless-configured laptop to work gratis – before or after their flights."
He said that service to Virgin Gorda might come as soon as May if construction of a dock there is complete.
Ruthenberg's appointment was announced in a press release Monday from Seaborne. Ruthenberg had previously served as the company's chief operating officer and "brings Seaborne a wealth of industry experience," according to ther release.
The release continues, "Prior to Seaborne, he held positions at Trans World Airlines as vice president, western region; Cayman Airways as vice president technical services; and president and CEO of Avitech Limited, an aviation consulting concern with clients including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and the United States Air Force."
In an interview Tuesday he said he had been coming to stay often on St. Croix in a time-share at Coakley Bay. However, he moved permanently to Christiansted in July of last year. He added, "St. Croix is now my home."
Asked about direct flights from St. Croix to San Juan or Virgin Gorda, he answered, "We know there are a great deal of people who do not want to make that stop at St. Thomas. We are exploring what we can do."
Another thing Seaborne is exploring is a partnership with the new Lynx ferry service operating between St. Croix and St. Thomas. When the Fast Ferry from Boston operated the route, Seaborne and the ferry offered round-trip tickets where the plane could be taken one way and the ferry the other.
He said he did not see the ferry as direct competition to the seaplanes. "There are different type travelers. There is the businessman who wants to go over and get back the same day. He takes the plane. There are leisure travelers who want to do some shopping and have more time. They will take the ferry."
Seaborne has operated in the territory for more than 14 years, employing over 120 Virgin Islanders and carrying more than 150,000 passengers a year, according to the press release.
Seaborne operates twin-engine, 15-passenger aircraft under the same rules as the major carriers. For reservations and information, visit the company's Web site or call 773-6442. Lower fares may be available online. Reservations hours are from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Sunday.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.