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Copa's Bahamas Load Factors Still 80%-Plus

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

COPA Airlines' performance is still holding strong, according to tourism director-general David Johnson, who told Tribune Business yesterday that through the months of March and April 2012 it was averaging load factors in the 80 per cents and above.

Mr Johnson said tourism officials were set to meet with Copa executives later this month to discuss the way forward with the airline's service to the Bahamas.

He added: "Copa is still holding very strong. We are meeting later this month to review the flight and look at the prospect for further growth. Through the months of March/April, load factors were still averaging in the 80's and above.

"Once we get beyond June it is a question of sustaining the growth and building demand sufficiently so they can see more growth. There are some challenges due to the need for yellow fever vaccinations coming into play, whereas a number of countries don't require it, but we are working on those concerns."

Mr Johnson added: "We are looking further at Latin America where we think there is more strength. We are growing with Copa, and we are trying to focus on markets that can give us the highest returns with the minimum amount of investment."

Mr Johnson said the New York market has been responsible for the strong rebound in airlift to Nassau this winter.

He added: "New York has been responsible in a big way for the rebound we have seen this winter with airlift into Nassau. We are quite pleased with the New York market. The market has performed quite strongly, and the airlines have said they are quite pleased, which means they are doing better than 79 per cent load factors on average."

Looking at the New York market, Mr Johnson said that Delta's LaGuardia flight has been a significant boost to airlift into Nassau, as well as JetBlu's service.

Mr Johnson said: "We have seen a strong rebound driven largely by those two additional flights from the New York market every day. We are meeting with Delta in Atlanta this week.

"Our primary thrust right now is to build our next gauge of capacity to meet our increased rooms stock. Our room stock will not increase much before 2014 winter. There is no need for any huge push into Nassau and Paradise Island in the short-term. We don't want to have a lot of seats going empty because persons don't want to come here because they have no place to stay. We are trying to keep a balance. There are some opportunities we would like to seek out. We are trying to diversifying markets as opportunities allow us to do it."

And Mr Johnson added: "At this stage we are in balance, so we are selective in terms of what we seek into Nassau/Paradise Island so as not to undermine the service we now have.

"We are in a bit of a driver's seat situation at this time. We are now working very hard to improve the service into the Family Islands. That is a multi-step process and that's underway. It centres around building the hub at LPIA and working with the domestic carriers."

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