U.S. Regional carrier Gulfstream International, under new ownership and a new leadership team, is back in growth mode after a Chapter 11 restructuring. The carrier is in the market for larger turboprops and is planning a major expansion in its Bahamas service this fall.

The Fort Lauderdale-based carrier already serves eight of the islands from several locations in Florida — mostly Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach — with 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D aircraft.

Gulfstream also operates out of Cleveland and Billings, Mont., on routes supported by the Essential Air Service program, which accounts for about 20% of its revenue, new CEO Darrell Richardson says. But its big focus right now is on the Bahamas, where it expects to boost flights by about 50%.

Gulfstream is increasing some frequencies this summer, followed by a bigger buildup in mid-November—the start of the peak season—and continuing through the first quarter, Richardson tells Aviation Week. It is part of a major push to return Gulfstream to its heyday as the “airline of choice for the Bahamas.” It does not plan any near-term return to Nassau, a market it left because of heavy competition, but is looking to increase the service to its existing destinations.

“We have boots on the ground there every day," Richardson says. “Our goal is to make every resort in the Bahamas a sales agent for our company.” A “Take Back the Bahamas” campaign that the carrier already is using internally will become public when the expansion begins, he adds.

The Bahamas expansion is the reason Gulfstream is in negotiations with three aircraft makers for an order of at least 10 30- to 45-seat turboprop aircraft, he says. Its fleet of 19-seat 21 Beech 1990Ds does not have lavatories, and the planes are too small for flight attendant staffing; in some markets, Gulfstream is competing with American Eagle flights on ATR 72 aircraft.

Gulfstream operates as Continental Connection on most routes and code-shares with United Continental and Copa Airlines, but it does not have capacity purchase agreements with them, so it decides where to fly, is responsible for its own fuel costs and receives a pro-rate share of the revenue on all but local traffic. All of its bookings, aside from services out of Billings, are done via Continental's reservations system.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November to restructure its debt and secure long-term financing. Victory Park Capital Advisors, a Chicago-based alternative asset management firm, provided $5 million in debtor-in-possession financing, hired Richardson as chief restructuring officer in February and acquired the carrier in May.

The Bahamas emphasis can be seen in many of the half-dozen new hires on the company's executive team, with a heavy dose of Caribbean market and regional airline experience. For example, the new VP-sales and marketing, Matthew Holliday, formerly of Vision Airlines and tour operator Suntrips, has a “strong background” in working with resorts, Richardson notes.

Richardson led Air Turks & Caicos as the CEO of Interisland Aviation Services Group, starting in July 2010. From 2000 to 2005, he served as president and CEO of Pace Airlines, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based carrier that filed for Chapter 7 liquidation in December 2009, and his prior experience also included time as chief operating officer at Piedmont Hawthorne Aviation and Mesaba Airlines.

In late 2006 and the first part of 2007, he was a consultant reporting to the president for low-cost carrier SkyValue, which attempted a business model in which it contracted with Xtra Airways for aircraft, flight crews and mechanics and outsourced work for reservations and ticket agents. Gary/Chicago International Airport was its base of operations. Richardson says some news stories mistakenly referred to him as CEO.