MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Mesaba Airlines hopes to lease more airplanes to offer cargo-only service to smaller cities and add new passenger service outside its current Airlink agreement with Northwest Airlines, says President and Chief Executive Paul Foley.
But Foley, who joined Mesaba last October, says the carrier must move slowly as it proceeds with its plan to double, or even triple, its fleet of planes in coming years.
"The graveyards are full of airlines who moved too fast," Foley told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
Foley said Mesaba wants to use its $100 million in cash reserves to purchase leases of Saab 340 aircraft, turboprop-driven planes that are being replaced by more efficient regional jets as other regional carriers upgrade their fleets.
Foley wants to convert some of the Saabs, which carry about 30 passengers, into cargo-only planes to fly small packages to smaller cities that might not have air cargo service from larger carriers. Mesaba now has 73 Saabs in service.
"It's the most exciting part of our strategy, personally," said Foley, who was vice president of operations for cargo carrier Atlas Air before moving to Mesaba.
Mesaba also wants new passenger planes, whether they come from Northwest or other carriers, he said. Northwest's latest order of regional jets went to its other regional carrier, Express Airlines I, which it owns outright.
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