Seaborne Airlines has agreed to be acquired by Silver Airways, a merger that would create a major Caribbean regional carrier.

The agreement was made as Seaborne filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Seaborne said the voluntary bankruptcy filing facilitates Silver's acquisition and a new $4.2 million credit facility.

Silver's acquisition of Seaborne is subject to court approval and any higher bids for the bankrupt airline. The two airlines have been exploring a merger since August.

Seaborne said hurricanes Maria and Irma pushed the carrier into Chapter 11. The airline is based in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Maria, and flies to several islands that were hammered, including Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Tortola and Dominica. Seaborne also flies to St. Kitts, Nevis and Antigua.

"While the company's business has enjoyed a remarkable recovery since the 2017 hurricanes, the financial stress caused during the recovery period coupled with legacy liabilities have made it necessary to seek reorganization protection," said Seaborne acting CEO Ben Munson.

While in bankruptcy, Seaborne said it will continue normal operations, including all codeshare agreements. Seaborne codeshares with American, Delta and JetBlue.

Silver Airways is based in Fort Lauderdale and operates 170 daily scheduled flights to 10 cities in Florida and eight destinations in the Bahamas. Silver was founded in 2010 with assets from the former Gulfstream International Airlines.

Seaborne operates some 1,500 monthly departures with its eight Saab 340B turboprops and two Twin Otter seaplanes.

Both Seaborne and Silver fly 34-seat Saab 340B aircraft, although Silver is replacing its 22-plane fleet. Silver has ordered 20 ATR-600 series aircraft, each of which will have 46 seats. Delivery of 20 planes is expected by early 2020.

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