Martha’s Vineyard Airport links the Island community to the world

Air travelers will find a wide range of flight options, ranging from small, local carriers to large charter jets.

Tom and Alice Robinson of Vineyard Haven arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport off a JetBlue flight, following a trip to Alaska. — Photo courtesy of Nelson Sigelma

While the Steamship Authority remains the backbone of the Martha’s Vineyard transportation network, the ever-busy Martha’s Vineyard Airport provides an important air link for travelers to a variety of destinations. The options include scheduled, charter, and private flights.

“You can get from anywhere to here, and that’s the truth,” Airport Manager Sean Flynn told The Times.

Martha’s Vineyard Airport manages to attract a wide range of commercial and private flight options, given its relatively small size. There were more than 117,000 enplanements, which include private and commercial flights, registered in the 2014 calendar year, according to airport data provided to The Times.

On the commercial side, four carriers provide scheduled flights to nine destinations along the Eastern Seaboard.

Cape Air is the most versatile of these airlines, linking the Island to six unique locations. Cape Air’s seasonal flights, which normally begin in May or June and run until September, connect Martha’s Vineyard (MVY) to Hyannis (HYA), White Plains (HPN), and Providence (PVD), while year-long service extends to Boston Logan (BOS), Nantucket (ACK), and New Bedford (EWB), according to the airline’s website.

Mr. Flynn explained that Providence and Boston are of particular importance to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport due to the fact that they are hub airports, meaning they are stopping points for longer-range planes. This, he said, makes travel from the Vineyard to almost all corners of the globe just one step away.

The other commercial carriers on the Island are Delta, which offers service to New York (JFK); JetBlue, which services both New York and Boston; and US Airways, which operates a route to Washington’s Reagan National Airport (DCA). All three airports regularly schedule international flights.

For those seeking to have more flexibility with their time, chartered flights can be an attractive option.

“You do not have to go through security, and you can often arrive up to 15 minutes prior to takeoff,” a representative for Linear Air, a Concord-based charter airline company, said in a telephone conversation with The Times. “You can also go to many destinations directly, where commercial airlines would have to stop in between.” The website for Linear Air states that its pricing is comparable to business-class airline fares.

Other perks of chartered flights, Mr. Flynn said, include the ability for a passenger to choose the departure time as well as have the option to fly to many smaller airports normally inaccessible when flying commercially.

Ted Stanley, owner of the Vineyard Haven–based air taxi service Direct Flight Inc., said that a customer’s added scheduling power when flying with a charter service as opposed to flying commercially can be best understood by the analogy of “waiting for a bus or calling a taxi.” He added that the Island’s increasing popularity in the past 20 years has put a greater demand on air travel, although intense regulations and high operating costs have led to a decrease in air-charter operators in recent years.

The added flexibility associated with charter flights does come with a steep price tag, however. Mr. Flynn estimates that a typical eight- to 10-seat chartered jet adds up to around $7,000 per hour of use, although the cost for an individual will vary.

For those looking for an option in between commercial and chartered flights, Mr. Flynn said that another flying option, referred to as “Scheduled 135s” in the aviation industry, offers a balance the two. Although passengers are not granted the option to schedule their own flights times, Mr. Flynn said that passengers, as on chartered flights, are not required to wait in security lines.

Destinations from Martha’s Vineyard via Scheduled 135 flights include Morristown (MMU), Bedford (KBED), and White Plains, he said.

Dirk van der Steere, co-owner of Titan Aviation, a partner of Ultimate Air Shuttle, offers both chartered and scheduled flights to clients. He said that an individual ticket for a scheduled flight from the Vineyard to Morristown, a service which is offered on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays, costs around $800 round-trip, whereas paying for an entire plane through his charter service is nearly $8,000 round-trip.

“The benefit of our scheduled flights is that you do not have to pay for the whole plane,” he said. “When flying through a chartered flight, however, you can bring whomever you want and you can leave whenever you want.” He added that both services allow one to fly with no TSA checks, bring any desired luggage, pay no parking fees at the airport, and arrive 15 minutes before the plane leaves. Beer, wine, and snacks are also available onboard free of charge.

But even more lavish forms of air travel are available for those who are willing to shell out a substantial amount of money.

Fractional ownership of an airplane is one such option. Mr. Flynn explained that under this system, a plane is owned by a group of shareholders, each of whom is granted a set amount of flying time proportional to his or her stake in the plane. A contracted company oversees and manages the plane, providing piloting and scheduling services for the plane’s owners.

The advantage of such an option is the shareholder’s ability to have access to an entire fleet of jets that can travel to almost any destination in the world, Mr. Flynn said. Rather than always flying his or her own plane, a shareholder will fly whichever plane in the fleet is closest to the departure location at takeoff, he explained.

The luxury service demands a hefty fee to go along with its perks. Forbes estimated that a 1/16 share in an airplane in the Berkshire Hathaway–controlled NetJets fleet costs a shareholder more than $500,000 for 50 hours of flight time per year. A 50 percent stake (400 hours per year) will set a shareholder back nearly $4.5 million.

The last option of air travel on Martha’s Vineyard is reserved for those who are in full ownership of their own planes, known as “general aviation.” Mr. Flynn said that many seasonal Islanders pay to keep their planes on the airport’s runways, or choose to store them in hangers run by private owners.

Aside from the fact that a pilot may not charge passengers for transportation, as such an act would make the flight a commercial operation, general aviation owners are granted freedom to manage their own affairs in the sky.

“As long as you are flying under the Federal Aviation Administration rules, you can do almost anything you want,” he said.