Friday, November 7–Council Seeks More Details From Airline Hopeful

OCEAN CITY – Though a few attempts at running a small commuter airline service out of the Ocean City Municipal Airport never got off the ground, the City Council has agreed to look into the possibility of giving it another go, this time, with a new airline.

Gabriel Saveedra of Florida-based Deluge Air, came before the council on Monday with hopes of gaining approval as soon as Thanksgiving to start running 40-minute direct flights from Ocean City to White Plains, N.Y. Saveedra proposed using two, 19-seat Beechcraft 1900 planes, twice a day, and four days a week at approximately $100 each way from White Plains, N.Y. to and from Ocean City.

Deluge Air would also run a connecting shuttle service to get customers from White Plains to New York City, which is only 15-20 minutes away.

Saveedra hopes that Ocean City will be another Fixed Based Operation (FBO), for his airline, which also flies direct from Reading, Pa. and Plattsburgh, N.Y. feeding into the White Plains airport.

“I’m having trouble seeing the advantages of having a shuttle flight from Ocean City to White Plains”, said Councilman Jim Hall. “I’m not a New York guy, but I do know that our core tourist markets are Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia.”

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed with Hall, saying, “I’m not sure that this would really work for our tourist traffic, as we are most eager to connect with tourists from those three major markets.”

Saveedra claims that he had looked into using BWI airport in Baltimore as a “hub” but said that the costs were too high. He explained that White Plains made more sense mostly because they were a major “hub” for discount airline jetBlue, which he hoped to be “embraced under jetBlue’s umbrella within four months of being in operation and hopefully start ticketing directly through jetBlue.”

Deluge Air had entered into a partnership with Wilmington International airport in North Carolina to use its airport as a FBO to fly two private seven-seat Learjet 35’s with service to the Bahamas, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and northern New Jersey, but the venture failed, according to Saveedra, because “people weren’t open for doing it on a Learjet. It just wasn’t the right timing.”

Despite the council’s obvious skepticism, Saveedra seemed confident that “the service would work in Ocean City” if he got up and running, and claimed to have the support of the town’s airport management staff, and all of the necessary paperwork in place concerning permits and liability insurance coverage.

Though he may have all the necessary paperwork for his business, what Saveedra lacked in the council’s eyes, was a proper proposal and a marketing plan to essentially enter into a business agreement with the town of Ocean City.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said, “I haven’t seen a thing on this as of yet”, and Councilwoman Mary Knight implored Saveedra to “get together a marketing plan that would show the value of the flights, and show us how you are going to draw more people to Ocean City. We’d love to have more New Yorkers visit here because we are nicer and have more to offer than the Jersey shore.”

Meehan added that the proposal had, “had some merit to it, but the service will only be as good as the amount of people doing it.”

In 2005, Simmons Air sought to use the Ocean City Municipal Airport as a hub to fly $99 round trip flights to and from Baltimore, but the service literally never got off the ground.

Council President Joe Metrecic encouraged Saveedra to, “get the proper contracts and marketing plans together and we’ll get you back on the agenda sometime soon.”