By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A BAHAMIAN airline chief executive yesterday warned the Government’s failure to consult was “the greatest threat to our survival” in the aviation industry, suggesting that some airlines could be paying up to $1,200 extra in Customs fees per day.
Captain Randy Butler, head of Sky Bahamas, said that if the Christie administration does not revisit its aviation tax increases, airlines may stop flying to the Bahamas or make adjustments to their schedules and stops in the islands.
Speaking at a meeting of the Rotary Club of West Nassau, Mr Butler said the Government’s new aviation taxes were “closing the door” to tourism, Family Island economic development and strangling the lifeblood of the country.
“I think we didn’t look at the whole picture, for example, the development of the Family Islands and the people who depend on this traffic,” he said.
“What we see now is that by putting these fees in place it’s really going to target the development of the Bahamas. They’re [airlines] already paying landing fees, parking fees etc.
“On the commercial, a big issue is waiting until July 1 to tell us it’s effective, meaning that that morning you needed to have $100 cash for overtime, $75 dollars cash each way for the Customs out and inward bound declaration,” Mr Butler said.
“If you’re doing that twice in the morning before 9am and twice in the evening after 5pm, you can understand you’re paying anywhere from $1,200 a day.
“The big problem with that is you couldn’t pass that on to passengers because you have to give them notice, and before you could increase your fees you have to get approvals from Civil Avaiation. Civil Aviation is the same arm that has put those taxes and fees on you, yet you have to wait on them for ticket and fare increases.”
Mr Butler added: “Many of the carriers will be forced to reduce their schedule if this continues, which will put more people on the unemployment line.
“An extra $75 is being levied by Customs to commercial carriers to process their forms when they land in the Bahamas, plus a $50 fee is being charged for refuelling stops in this nation.
“Both private and commercial airline flights are being charged $75 for arrival and departure, making for a grand total of $150 per flight. Commercial aircraft with a seating capacity of less than 30 will be charged $50 per hour; airlines with seats numbering between 31-70 will be charged $100 per hour and those with 71 seats or more will be charged $200 per hour.
“Customs is adding a new 1 per cent administrative processing fee which will be added to brakes and tires and other aircraft parts imported into the Bahamas for repair. This fee, capped at $500 per import, replaces the previous $10 stamp duty levy.”
Mr Butler called for greater consultation with industry stakeholders, arguing that while the Government must find ways to raise revenue, it has to do it in ways that result in a “net gain” for all concerned.
“The greatest threat to our survival in aviation remains the lack of consultation that successive governments have had with aviation industry players on the issue of fees and tax increases,” said Mr Butler, warning that fee increases would ultimately be passed on to passengers.