Cape Air, Nantucket offer contingency plans
Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines, which have suspended operations today while attempting to track down the cause of recent engine failures, said this morning Nantucket-Hyannis passengers may be accommodated on Island Airlines.
On its other local routes, however, "most flights will be cancelled,'' the sister airlines said in a statement this morning. Passengers holding tickets for travel today and on flights in the next several days that get cancelled can reuse the tickets on another flight within a year free of charge, or get a full refund.
Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines are suspending operations while mechanics work to identify and fix the cause of three recent engine failures on the two-engine piston-powered Cessna 402 planes the airline flies. Two failures happened on Memorial Day Weekend, a third on Tuesday afternoon on a flight from Nantucket to Logan International Airport. In all cases the planes were able to land safely using the remaining working engine.
Company president Dan Wolf said he decided to ground the airlines' entire 49-plane Cessna fleet while the problems are solved, which apparently involve excessive wear on a crankshaft counterweight.
The airlines expected about 2,000 to 3,000 passengers to board flights today leaving from Boston, Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, New Bedford, Providence, and Provincetown. Officials were scrambling to find passengers accommodations on buses and ferries. Wolf said Tuesday night he hoped to begin phasing flights back in Thursday afternoon as planes are deemed safe to fly.
Cape Air said Island Airlines "will do its best to serve you and will accept your Nantucket Airlines tickets'' for flights only on the Nantucket-Hyannis route. For all other routes, people who want to seek a refund can do so by email to firstname.lastname@example.org if they bought an electronic ticket or by mail, if they have a paper ticket, to Cape Air - Refunds, 660 Barnstable Road, Hyannis, MA 02601.
As of 10 a.m., Wolf said, five of the 34 Cessna 402s Cape Air has assigned to the New England market were operating, and he hoped to have two more flying by the end of the day today. (The company also has 12 planes in the Caribbean and three in Florida now, markets to which it shifts Cape and Islands-based planes in the winter months. Only one of those 15 was flying this morning.)
Wolf said if engine repairs can be completed fast enough, he hopes to put another five planes back in New England service Thursday, and he continues to hope the airlines will be back to as close to normal service in Massachusetts and Rhode Island as possible by Sunday.
Wolf said that "the ramp back up to full service is going to be better in some markets than others,'' with the airline trying to give priority to restoring service on routes with the fewest transportation alternatives, such as Boston to Provincetown and Boston to the islands. Service is likely to be restored first from Boston, second from Providence, and third from New Bedford, Wolf said.
"From a business perspective, this hurts, but it does validate what our existence is about, which is safety and customer service,'' Wolf said.
(By Peter J. Howe, Globe staff)