The news was not good for Silver Airways last week. A dispute over unpaid bills in Fort Lauderdale spilled the carriers troubles into the public spotlight. Whether this is the end of Silver or not, I have no idea. But I figured this would be a good opportunity to look at the impact of a Silver disappearance, were it to happen.
According to the Fort Lauderdale airport, Silver owed the airport back-rent of nearly $1 million as of December. This appears to be after the airport seized Silver’s $113,000 security deposit to pay down part of the debt, but that’s obviously not enough and now FLL is moving to evict the airline.
This may not be a big deal since FLL is apparently now just a seaport. But assuming FLL does eventually return to being above sea level, it would be a loss for Silver to go away, even though it’s not a huge chunk of capacity. Silver serves many markets that others do not.
Here’s a look at Silver’s Florida network from March that it flew with ATR turboprops. (There’s another part of the network that’s San Juan-based, the old Seaborne that Silver acquired five years ago, but I won’t look at that today.)
Silver has tried to expand its network to go beyond Florida, but ultimately the real value of Silver’s existence is the intra-Florida and Bahamas flying. Of the 28 city pairs Silver served in March, 17 are served only by Silver. Those are the ones in pink above.
While there are some routes that fly intra-Florida, the real pain of a Silver failure would be felt in the Bahamas. As the article notes, there is already some trepidation about what would happen there. The only route with competition today from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas is over to Freeport where Bahamasair also flies. Of course, it’s important to remember that just because there wouldn’t be any airline on these specific routes, there would be alternatives.
All of the Bahamas routes are served at least by American from Miami — sometimes by others as well — with the exception of Governor’s Harbour and Bimini which would lose their only air links to the US. That assumes, of course, that others don’t step in.
You can already see Silver’s network being touched by others. The big intra-Florida routes (orange) connecting Fort Lauderdale to Orlando and Tampa are already served by both Southwest and Spirit. The same goes for New Orleans – Tampa. And Spirit alone (yellow) flies Orlando – Pensacola for some reason.
JetBlue has bit around the edges with Fort Lauderdale – Charleston and Jacksonville, but remember it is also starting Fort Lauderdale – Tallahassee next year as part of its efforts to woo Florida into supporting its acquisition of Spirit. I imagine it could be strong-armed into more additions if the state really cared.
As if that’s not enough, we can’t forget about Breeze which in March, at least, flew four markets (light blue) operated by Silver from Charleston to both Orlando and Tampa as well as from Orlando to Huntsville and Jacksonville to New Orleans. Breeze moves around a lot, so it probably serves more or less on any given day. But you get the point.
Were Silver to go away, I’d imagine airlines like Southern Airways Express would be thrilled to go into some of these markets on the low end. The Part 135 operation they’d operate with 9-seaters would be much easier to staff. I can imagine Breeze rolling into some other markets while Bahamasair might put some ATRs to fill the void as well.
None of this is to say that Silver’s days are done, but not paying rent to your home airport for as long as it’s been… it’s not a great sign. At the very least, it’s worth pondering possible scenarios.